Schmidt, Gary D.

Just like That

(2) YA Losses suffered by two young people set in motion threads of fate that will ultimately tie them together. In June 1968, in Hicksville, Long Island, Meryl Lee Kowalski's closest friend, Holling (protagonist of The Wednesday Wars, rev. 7/07), is killed in a car crash, and her parents send her away for a fresh start at St. Elene's Preparatory Academy for Girls on the coast of Maine. In a parallel narrative, Matt Coffin has fled New York City with a ­pillowcase full of money stolen from Leonidas Shug, an evil, Fagin-like leader of a gang of street criminals who killed Matt's friend. After the loss of her friend, Meryl Lee feels that "everything in the world became a Blank," a dark hole that threatens to suck her in. In the same town, Matt has holed up in a lobsterman's shack, but he realizes that he cannot escape his past, as Shug is in pursuit, leaving a trail of arson and mayhem in his wake. Meryl Lee's and Matt's stories eventually converge through the actions of St. Elene's wise and compassionate headmistress, who offers them both the refuge they seek. Schmidt nimbly weaves a story of good and evil, loss and gain, home and heart. He writes like a modern-day Dickens; at one point, Meryl Lee says that "there are times when words can't do what you want them to do," but Schmidt can, and this is a masterwork of old-fashioned storytelling.


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