Follow the Stars Home
Warning – Follow the Stars Home is not a two-hanky read. It’s not even a three-hanky read. Just for fun, I counted the number of Kleenex I went through during the book and came up with the grand total of 17. The Kimberly Clark Company should be thanking me by now.
This is a book that starts off with a 12-year-old girl getting injured in a car accident, and it only gets sadder. But, there is a difference between sad and depressing. A book that is sad can also be uplifting. A book that is depressing cannot. And Follow the Stars Home definitely falls into the uplifting category.
Soon after Dianne Robbins learned that her unborn child would suffer from birth defects, her husband Tim gave her an ultimatum – have an abortion or raise the child alone. Now, 11 years later, Dianne has raised her beautiful daughter Julia, who cannot talk, grasp or walk and who suffers from spina bifida and Rett’s Syndrome. Although Tim has had his chances, he’s never had contact with his daughter or his ex-wife. And his behavior has hardened Dianne’s heart against another relationship.
The only man in her life is Alan McIntosh, Tim’s brother and Julia’s pediatrician. Alan has been in love with Dianne since he’s known her, but she’s mostly seen him as Tim’s brother and has focused the brunt of her anger on him. Alan, ever understanding, knows that all Dianne needs is the opportunity to be a mother to a daughter who can physically respond to her love. So he introduces her to Amy, also his patient, who is as damaged in spirit as Julia is in body. Under Dianne’s care, Amy blossoms. And, with Amy’s love, Julia first experiences what it is like to have a friend, and Dianne has her first experiences dealing with a typical child.
Amy’s life, however, is far from typical and, in saving her from an abusive home, Dianne reaches out and allows herself to love again; first with a motherly love for Amy, then with a passionate love for Alan. But, when an accident brings Tim back into the picture, the entire family must face its past.
Follow the Stars Home is a deeply moving book that delves into the psyche of each character without too much unnecessary brooding. You are allowed a glimpse into the thoughts of each character just long enough to understand their hopes and feelings. Then, you are swept into the story once again.
And what a story! Rice knows when to throw in action and when to turn introspective. And the tale is just as exciting when Dianne and Amy are making sand castles on the beach as it is when Amy is escaping from a potential kidnapper. The story never loses its momentum and its energy carries through straight to a surprising ending.
The love story between Dianne and Alan is particularly believable. Their relationship is one that builds slowly, from a foundation of trust and love. When Dianne describes “an emotion all their own, that they had invented themselves,” I wept along with her at the wonder of it all.
And Alan is a perfect hero. Perhaps he is a little too perfect, and that’s where I find fault with the book. For all of the hardships the characters must face, they never once break down with the effort, never once walk into a problem that fate or resilience can’t get them out of. It would have been nice, even in this ethereal setting to see some proof that these characters were mere mortals. But, if Rice was trying to create a heaven on earth, it would exist in Follow the Stars Home. This is a book that is truly sad, but it’s also beautiful, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it found its way to more than a few keeper shelves.