cover image Tree. Table. Book.

Tree. Table. Book.

Lois Lowry. Clarion, $18.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-06329-950-4

Lowry (Gossamer) movingly explores the unusual, intergenerational friendship between two Sophies: widowed 88-year-old Polish-born Sophie Gershowitz and 11-year-old Sophie Winslow, next-door neighbors in a small New Hampshire town. The two enjoy what Sophie Winslow calls a “friendship of the heart,” sharing a love for conducting Prokofiev recordings, the color mauve, and Sophie Gershowitz’s elderly cat. Young Sophie narrates the friends’ story in a direct, unembellished voice as a writing exercise and, following the advice of a visiting writer (“Begin on the day that is different”), zeroes in on the moment she overhears a disturbing conversation between her parents about her elderly friend’s weakening cognitive abilities. Determined to prove this is untrue—even while experiencing events that steadily reveal the opposite—she guides older Sophie through Merck Manual–recommended cognitive tests, along the way learning poignant truths about her friend’s past. Clear-eyed, sympathetic Sophie is an astute observer and straightforward protagonist, and her relationship with Sophie Gershowitz, as well as with her parents and other friends—including her seven-year-old autistic neighbor—radiate genuine warmth. The novel’s spare language and matter-of-fact recounting enhance its rich emotional core. All characters present as white; Sophie Gershowitz is Jewish. Ages 8–12. (Apr.)