by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Purchase*: Amazon | Audible *affiliate
From New York Times bestselling author Catherine Ryan Hyde comes a moving novel about two strangers who find that kindness is a powerful antidote to fear.
Raymond Jaffe feels like he doesn’t belong. Not with his mother’s new family. Not as a weekend guest with his father and his father’s wife. Not at school, where he’s an outcast. After his best friend moves away, Raymond has only two real connections: to the feral cat he’s tamed and to a blind ninety-two-year-old woman in his building who’s introduced herself with a curious question: Have you seen Luis Velez?
Mildred Gutermann, a German Jew who narrowly escaped the Holocaust, has been alone since her caretaker disappeared. She turns to Raymond for help, and as he tries to track Luis down, a deep and unexpected friendship blossoms between the two.
Despondent at the loss of Luis, Mildred isolates herself further from a neighborhood devolving into bigotry and fear. Determined not to let her give up, Raymond helps her see that for every terrible act the world delivers, there is a mirror image of deep kindness, and Mildred helps Raymond see that there’s hope if you have someone to hold on to.
Have You Seen Luis Velez? by Catherine Ryan Hyde delivered a poignant, relevant, diverse and heartfelt novel about people, perception and privilege.
Filled with poignant prose you will want to reference again and again, our story begins in a high-rise apartment building located in New York City. It isn’t overly fancy and home to middle and lower-income families.
Our protagonist Raymond is seventeen and of mixed race. He lives with his mother who has remarried and has two daughters with her new husband. He spends every other weekend with his father and new wife. On the day we meet Raymond, it’s the last day before his best and only friend moves to California. It is also the day he meets, Mrs. G (Mildred). A 92-year-old blind woman who lives on the fourth floor when she pokes her head out the door and asks, “Have You Seen Luis Velez?”
Raymond goes back to see the woman after school and learns that a young man named Luis, stopped by a few times a week to escort her with her errands. The poor woman hasn’t seen him in almost three weeks. He discovers she has been living on a single can of soup for the last few days. Raymond befriends her and take over Luis’s tasks. It isn’t long before he sets out looking for Luis Velez. And thus our coming of age story begins.
This was my first experience with Hyde and I’d love to see this book on required reading lists. The story touches on many relevant topics regarding privilege, loss, forgiveness, understanding, compassion, sexuality, perception, diversity, and community. Last but not least, it touched on friendship. The friendship that developed between this young boy and an elderly woman was remarkable, heartwarming and memorable.
The topics were effortlessly woven into the tale as Raymond met different Luis Velez’s in the city. Not every encounter was friendly but a few profoundly changed the lives of Raymond and others.
The story began with the friendship of Raymond and Mrs G, and his search for Luis Velez, but it grew. As their circle of friends grew and so did Raymond. I really liked Raymond. He is a fine young man, and the scenes involving a stray cat sealed the deal for me even before he helped Mrs. G. Secondary characters from the large Velez family to the widowed mother moved me and reminded me how wonderful people can be amid current events.
I laughed, I cried, and I reflected on many of the issues that Hyde touched upon. This is a fantastic story for a book club.
Have You Seen Luis Velez? was a powerful tale that reminds us of the power of kindness. This is a novel whose story you will carry with you, long after you’ve closed the book.
Have You Seen Luis Velez? by Catherine Ryan Hyde is a heartwarming, diverse novel that is relevant. It's a story that will stay with you. #NewRelease #MustRead #Fave2019 Click To Tweet
“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” -Mark Twain