Eli the Good by Silas House

Genre: YA Fiction
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 295
Challenges: Support Your Local Library Challenge #50
Source: Library

I’m so very glad I paid attention when my bookseller friend mentioned that she was reading this book. It’s just wrapped itself around my heart. Eli and his family will stay with me for a while.

It’s the summer of 1976. Eli Book is ten years old and it seems that his family may be coming apart at the seams. His Vietnam vet dad is having horrible nightmares. His mom seems distant. His 16 year old sister is defying her parents. His very best friend is hurting because her parents are divorcing. His aunt who was a protester of the war her brother fought in is staying with them. Eli is an observer of people and of nature. He eavesdrops on conversations and finds himself knowing things he probably shouldn’t.

I liked Eli. I wanted to grab Eli and wrap him up in a big hug. Then I wanted to hug the rest of his family and his friend Edie too. The story is written as if the adult Eli is writing about that fateful summer. His observations are almost poetic at times, but as he’s watching his family and best friend and their conflicts there is also a deep sense of love in the way he tells the story of how he struggled to understand what was happening. There is also music. The songs that are mentioned throughout the book create a soundtrack to the story. This is the soundtrack of my life. I was a teenager in 1976 so almost all the songs are well known to me and carry their own memories and emotions as they underscore Eli’s story.

If I hadn’t known this book was shelved in the Young Adult section, I’m not sure I would have classified it as a YA novel. Perhaps that’s because I can so easily place myself in and around Eli’s story. While reading about that summer, I remembered the music, the TV shows, my friends who’s Dads or older brothers had served in Vietnam and the struggles they had as well as so many other things about that time that were there as casual parts of the story. I think many people in my generation might feel the same way about this book. I’m not so sure how it would be for someone much younger than I am.

I loved the writing. I’ve never read any of Silas House’s other books, but I will look for them now. He has a way of writing about both people and nature that paints images as well as emotions. There were far too many quotes I could have marked or written down.

This is a book I can heartily recommend.

Rating 5/5