Friday, July 12, 2019

Book Review: Have You Seen Luis Velez?

By Sara Steven

Raymond Jaffe feels like he doesn’t belong. Not with his mother’s new family. Not as a weekend guest with his father and his father’s wife. Not at school, where he’s an outcast. After his best friend moves away, Raymond has only two real connections: to the feral cat he’s tamed and to a blind ninety-two-year-old woman in his building who’s introduced herself with a curious question: Have you seen Luis Velez?

Mildred Gutermann, a German Jew who narrowly escaped the Holocaust, has been alone since her caretaker disappeared. She turns to Raymond for help, and as he tries to track Luis down, a deep and unexpected friendship blossoms between the two.

Despondent at the loss of Luis, Mildred isolates herself further from a neighborhood devolving into bigotry and fear. Determined not to let her give up, Raymond helps her see that for every terrible act the world delivers, there is a mirror image of deep kindness, and Mildred helps Raymond see that there’s hope if you have someone to hold on to. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

As is the case with so many of Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novels, we get to see two people who are so vastly different from one another, form an unlikely bond. It’s something I admire so much about Hyde’s stories, because it unfolds in such a sweet and organic way. Both Raymond and Mildred feel like outcasts, and feel misunderstood. They have found common ground in each other, even when others don’t understand and even judge the friendship.

While Raymond goes on his search for Luis Velez, I was right there with him, hoping against hope that he’d been found. The voice of Raymond is so fitting of his age, the perspective realistic and honest as he ventures outside of his comfort zone in order to do something good for someone he cares about. An uplifting experience that reminded me that there is still goodness in people. Because, even though the characters created aren’t real-life people, the actions they take and the goals they have are all actions and goals so many of us can do and make in our own lives.

In searching for Luis, Raymond discovers that he has created a chain reaction within the people he’s reached out to, an outcome that changes him and the people within his world, Mildred included. It’s all told so simply, but the simplicity speaks volumes. I always feel like I’ve learned an important lesson when I read something from Hyde, and Have You Seen Luis Velez? is no exception. That, sometimes, it’s okay to stop and help someone, even when it feels like it might be an imposition to the walls we’ve put up around ourselves, or that we don’t have enough time or have the resources to do it. That sometimes, just a smile or being there can at times, feel like it’s more than enough, to not feel so alone in this world.

Thanks to Little Bird Publicity for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Catherine Ryan Hyde:

No comments: