• Paperback Snob

Carry Me Home by Janet Fox: A heartbreaking but hopeful story about homelessness

This beautiful and poignant book was read in almost one sitting. It’s a powerful drama about two children who wake one morning to find their father has vanished, while they are all living in his car. Intrigued by the father’s mysterious disappearance and immediately bowled over by the sisters at the centre of the story, I could not put Carry Me Home down.

As hopeful as it is heartbreaking, this book is even more affecting because of how authentic it feels. The author was inspired by a true story she heard on the radio about a family living in their car, despite both parents working. One of the reasons this book is so moving is because it shows how many children are now forced to live.

Homelessness is on the rise all over the world with more and more families finding themselves without accommodation. In Ireland, there were over 2,000 homeless children earlier this year. Homelessness rose here by 7% between August and September. One political party reported that two children a day were made homeless in this country in August. The book’s social commentary also includes the extortionate cost of medical treatment, and how it’s not just financially devastating, but can destroy a whole family. Although Carry Me Home reflects a depressing reality, it is a remarkably optimistic story with incredibly resilient protagonists. Lulu and Serena are two characters that will stay with me, and their tender sibling relationship is evoked wonderfully. Lulu is amazing; so brave and protective of her younger sister. Lulu’s short life has already been unusually turbulent and traumatic, yet she is pragmatic, resourceful, insightful and positive. She constantly reminds Serena that people who are angry are really just scared, and she recognises her own fury with her father as fear.

Lulu finds comfort in creative outlets like singing and acting in the school play, and making tiny origami cranes, almost obsessively. Lulu hopes that if she makes enough cranes, her wishes will be granted. The cranes dotted throughout the book offer glimmers of light and demonstrate how even in times of despair, beauty can be found.

Author Janet Fox emphasises how help is there when we need it and how no one should ever feel ashamed to ask for help. She stresses that no one should have to live like this but it's nothing to be embarrassed about either. Carry Me Home demonstrates how easy it is to become homeless, and how it can happen to anyone. The story encourages empathy in both children and grown-ups, and young people in similar situations to Lulu and Serena will feel seen.

Fox writes gently and eloquently, and her characters are extremely convincing. The sense of community is strong and although we’re always aware of the girls’ vulnerability and the potential dangers, the most dominant force is kindness. Lulu and Serena are outsiders to the small town in the story, but they bring it together. An emotional but uplifting story that carries the reader along effortlessly.

About the author:

Janet Fox is an author, mom, outdoor enthusiast, and former teacher. She’s been to the bottom of the ocean in a submersible and had a brief fling with rock stardom. Her novels are written for children and young adults but have won her fans of all ages. Her gothic middle-grade novel The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle has received a whole bunch of stars and the lovely Crystal Kite Award. At the moment, she’s sporting blue and pink stripes in her hair. She lives in Bozeman, Montana. Find out more at JanetSFox.com.

Carry Me Home was published by Simon and Schuster on 24th August 2021 – see this book on the publisher's website

Thanks so much to Blue Slip Media and Simon and Schuster for sharing this book with me; all opinions expressed are my own.