Behind You

by Jacqueline Woodson

In If You Come Softly, Jacqueline Woodson wrote about Jeremiah, who is Black, and... read more

In If You Come Softly, Jacqueline Woodson wrote about Jeremiah, who is Black, and Elly, who is white, and how they fell in love. At the wrenching ending of that novel, teenager Jeremiah, running home in high spirits from Elly’s, is shot and killed in the park by a police officer looking for a Black man suspected of a crime. Behind You begins in the first moments after that agonizing event. In a beautiful and astonishing opening chapter, a soul looks down on the body of Jeremiah. It is Jeremiah’s soul, disbelieving, trying to distance itself from what has happened: “Your soul thinks—somebody loved that boy once. Thinks—once that boy was me.” In the story that follows, the people who loved Jeremiah the most—Elly, each of his parents, his closest friends—react to their loss in a story in which grief and longing feel woven into the very fibers of the pages. Yet this is not just a story of hurting but of healing as well. Gradually those who loved Jeremiah reawaken to feelings other than pain and numbness. His life connects them one to another as well, and in those connections some of them find courage. At the same time his loved ones are healing, Jeremiah is too, with the soul of his grandmother to help him let go of all he has left behind. Woodson’s extraordinary narrative is a lyrical and moving work from the first page—an epigraph by Raymond Carver that ends “And what did you want? To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth. ”—to the last page. (Ages 14–18)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2005

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