While the writing is simple and the length is short, it covers a heavy topic: what happens to a family when the father leaves. Author Hope Anita Smith begins the book with a portrait of a happy family, with thirteen-year-old CJ's observations of his life with his two siblings, parents, and grandmother. When CJ's father loses his job, he withdraws and then one day does not return. Smith handles the subject delicately, showing the repercussions for the family. His mother tries to move on, his grandmother holds the family together, and CJ tries to take on the role of the "man of the house." It isn't easy, but CJ maintain his loyalty to his father and believes he will return. I loved the section entitled, "Diamond in the Rough":
Daddy has always spoken loud
of being black and being proud
of honest pay for a job well done,
a father’s dream for his oldest son.
He gives me words, each one a gem,
words I wish someone had given him.
Smith treats the father with more generosity than he may deserve and it manages to be refreshing. Not all fathers who leave are gone forever. THE WAY A DOOR CLOSES does not delve into what the father's return means, but the sequel Keeping the Night Watch does.
THE WAY A DOOR CLOSES won the Coretta Scott King - John Steptoe New Talent Award and deserved it. I was touched by the struggles of CJ and his family, and hope that it can provide hope or solace for boys in similar situations.
Great for the classroom