Twelve year-old Piper has always dreamed of having a sibling. She never imagined gaining three siblings in one weekend. But that’s exactly what happens when a tragic car accident brings her three orphaned cousins to live under her roof. Between their grief and the shock of the cross-country move, the cousins’ first days are rough. Piper tries to be her best self, to comfort them, but it’s hard to know what to say and do. She and her parents wrestle with the desire to welcome the three into their family without making them feel they have to forget their parents.
I think telling this story from Piper’s perspective was an interesting choice. She functions primarily as an observer, watching her parents wrestle with this unexpected change and watching her cousins work through grief in different ways. It’s not that Piper doesn’t have her own adjustments to make. She’s pretty mellow and even, kind of just goes with the flow of things, but she does have to face her own trials in the course of the story.
The conversations between Piper’s parents felt real and true to life for people experiencing not only grief and regret over lost loved ones but also feeling torn about bringing three children they feel they barely know into their home. While I loved the relatability of those moments, I felt like I didn’t get to hear enough from Piper. I wanted more dialogue between her and other characters.
As a divorced and remarried parent, I’m always looking for books that address issues of grief and blended families. Though The Hopper-Hill Family doesn’t merge families due to divorce, I felt like it presented some of the same questions, fears, and grief that children in a newly blended family might feel, as well as creating a sense of hope. Piper doesn’t experience the loss of her own parents, but her close observation of her household and her care for and patience with her cousins shows empathy and kindness in the face of the kind of grief that often leaves us not knowing how to respond to survivors.
All this might make the story sound really heavy – it’s not. I read through the whole tale in an afternoon. Despite the sad topic, it’s got a lot of hope and a lot of emphasis on what it means to become a family.
Sam, Cora, and Seth’s family all attended church in their Colorado town. Sam requests prayer at bed time after he moves in with Piper’s family. Cora continues to pray and keep in touch with a spiritual mentor. Piper’s parents worry that their non-religious home will be uncomfortable for the kids, but don’t make any changes regarding their own practices.
References to a car accident which killed two people. A child and dog are injured in a car accident as well.
Seth smokes cigarettes. Piper’s family eventually confronts him about this and he agrees to try to quit. Piper’s Uncle Carlos comes home drunk and vomits on the floor. He briefly tells Piper that he’s addicted to alcohol but moves out rather than getting any help. Later he sends a note to the family explaining he’s been clean for a few weeks.
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.