The cover of See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles features a just-eaten hot fudge sundae glass with two spoons inside. See You at Harry’s left me feeling the simple satisfaction of just having read a perfectly sweet and intimate novel of empathy and love.
Our narrator is 12 year-old Fern, but like all children this age she is more complicated than you would think. She is named, yes, for the character in Charlotte’s Web and she lets us know who all of her siblings are also named after famous literary characters (Sara, Holden and Charlie). Her mother explains her name:
“Because Fern cares, ” she said. “From the moment you were born, I could tell you had a special soul. I knew you’d be a good friend. A hero.”
Did you feel that tug on your heartstrings? Yes, this is the special magic that is held in this novel.
We go on to meet Fern’s family and to understand that they own and run a family diner (restaurant) named Harry’s. Harry’s is also known for its ice cream about to be released in stores. Fern examines the pitfalls of having your whole family used as the advertising force to promote the diner. Her youngest brother, Charlie (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) becomes their most famous face as his photograph is splashed on the sides of the delivery trucks and he is the one who customers fall in love with as his “See you at Hawee’s!” becomes an adorable plug in the family commercial.
Fern examines the life of her family, realizing what is going on in each of their lives and what is being missed by their parents as they attempt to juggle the busy life of family and their own business. She knows what is going on as she attempts to find herself and who she really is. Jo Knowles does a fantastic job of introducing and making us feel very attached to this family. Even as we realize some of the sacrifices being made to preserve the life of the business, we also know that this family deeply loves one another and we fall in love with them as well. The novel is a wonderful mix of letting us see how a family owned business is run, how a family runs while owning a business and how a family comes together in times of crisis.
Without ruining the book for anyone, I will say that real heartbreak does happen in the life of this fictional family and then I truly felt the impact of the author’s careful development of these characters because I felt as full of despair as Fern when tragedy struck. In this way, Jo Knowles is truly gifted – she creates a world where you can’t help but feel that you are a part of the story as you share the feelings of the characters in the novel.
I highly recommend See You at Harry’s. You will feel completely satisfied and full of love for everyone in your life after you have read it, much like you would if you had just had the most delightful hot fudge sundae of the summer.