When Josie Jensen, an awkward 13-year-old musical prodigy crashes headlong into new-comer Samuel Yazzie, an 18-year-old Navajo boy full of anger and confusion, an unlikely friendship blooms. Josie teaches Samuel about words, music and friendship, and along the way finds a kindred spirit. Upon graduation, Samuel abandons the sleepy, small town in search of a future and a life, leaving his young friend behind. Many years go by and Samuel returns, finding Josie in need of the very things she offered him years before. Their roles reversed, Samuel teaches Josie about life, love, and letting go. Deeply romantic and poignant, Running Barefoot is the story of a small town girl and a Native American boy, the ties that bind them to their homes and families, and the love that gives them wings.
I read many more books than I have the time or opportunity to review. So I try not to review multiple books by the same author. But when it comes to Amy Harmon, I just can’t help it. I only discovered her last year, but she has quickly become one of my favorite authors. Her ability to write emotionally complex characters always draws me in to her stories. Another skill Amy has mastered is the ability to take potentially scandalous relationships like those that are inter-faith, inter-racial or with an inappropriate age gap and portray them instead with innocence, self-discipline and restraint.
Running Barefoot is no exception. There is a significant five year age gap between Josie and Samuel when first they meet. Samuel is an angry young man not fully accepted due to his mixed Indian and Caucasian heritage. His sense of rejection causes him to reject Josie. Josie however is an old soul with a corresponding level of maturity unique to a thirteen year old. Their unusual friendship introduces them both to new perspectives and they form a bond of the soul.
Since the story is told from Josie’s perspective, I was often left wanting a peek into Samuel’s mind. His reactions are so strong and his heritage so interesting, that I found myself just as intrigued by him as Josie was. Luckily, my wish was granted. After a separation of several years, Samuel finally returns. It is at this point when he shares with Josie his side of their shared history. And oh my goodness, it made my heart both cry and melt.
Josie is also a very compelling heroine. She has a grace and quiet strength about her. She also has a poetic, musical soul which helps her view life through a unique lens. And the poor girl goes through several tragedies that would probably break a lesser person. I found myself admiring her ability to just keep moving forward one day at a time. She doesn’t become bitter and continues to give of herself to those she cares about. Josie willingly sacrifices her own dreams and desires for other without making a fuss about it.
Out of thirteen of Amy’s currently released titles, I’ve now read ten. And I can tell you it is almost impossible to pick a favorite. She not only writes compelling stories which grip the heart, but she does it in multiple genres. Running Barefoot ranks right up there among my favorites and I highly recommend it. And bonus! For the month of July several of Amy’s titles are on sale at Amazon. If you’ve never experienced her gift of story telling, now is the time.
My other Harmon book reviews: