Judith Ormand is a mixed race Jewish woman. After her mother died, she was raised in a mountain village in Pennsylvania by her white Christian grandparents. Sally Wiener Grotta’s novel, Jo Joe, opens with Judith’s return to her grandparents home after a seventeen year absence. Her grandmother had recently died and she needs to settle the estate. She allows herself one week.
The experiences of the twelve years Judith lived with her grandparents seriously impacted her life. With the exception of one boy, Joe Anderson, she was tormented by her classmates. He became her protector and her friend. One day, even he turned against her for reasons she did not understand. Judith left to attend University in Paris. Prior to leaving, her grandmother told her to never return to their village. Even though Judith is puzzled, she agrees to this. However, the circumstances necessitate her return. The contents of her grandmother’s will are shocking and Judith is determined to uncover what motivated her grandmother’s final wishes.
With skill and sensitivity the author draws the reader into both the past and present lives of Judith. As Judith goes from room to room of her former home we are there with her. The detail and description of Judith’s memories provide a vivid picture of the person she became. It is sometimes said that our memories may define us. When Judith learns the truth about her grandmother’s reasons for the contents of the will she realizes her past was not exactly what she thought it was. She has to learn who she is and where does she go from here? This both a moving and memorable book. I recommend reading it.
I received this book free of charge from Pixel Hall Press and I give this review of my own free will.