From the bestselling author of Pay It Forward comes the stunning and emotional story of a young soldier’s unthinkable act…and the bonds of a sister and brother’s love.
Ruth and her little brother, Aubrey, are just teenagers when their older brother ships off to Iraq. When Joseph returns, uninjured, only three and a half months later, Ruth is happy he is safe but also deeply worried. How can it be that her courageous big brother has been dishonorably discharged for refusing to go out on duty? Aubrey can’t believe that his hero doesn’t have very good reasons.
Yet as the horrifying details of the incident emerge, Joseph disappears. In their attempts to find him, Ruth and Aubrey discover he has a past far darker than either of them could imagine. But even as they learn more about their brother, important questions remain unanswered—why did he betray his unit, his country, and now his family? Joseph’s refusal to speak ignites a fire in young Aubrey that results in a disastrous, and public, act of rebellion.
The impact of Joseph’s fateful decision one night in Baghdad will echo for years to come, with his siblings caught between their love for him and the media’s engulfing frenzy of judgment. Will their family ever make their way back to each other and find a way to forgive?
I received Ask Him Why by Catherine Ryan Hyde as part of the BookSparks’ Cozy Reads Tour. I hadn’t heard of Catherine Ryan Hyde, but when I looked into it further, I saw that she had written the book, Pay It Forward, which was later made into a movie, so I was really looking forward to receiving this book.
The story begins in 2003, when Joseph returns from Iraq after only three months in the service. His sister, Ruth (“Duck”) and younger brother, Aubrey (“Mr. Universe”) are very confused about why Joseph is home so soon. Before they can get any answers from Joseph, he disappears. The family knows something is terribly wrong and in matter of days, they find out just how bad things are, but then Joseph disappears. Over the months, the family endures pressure from the media and ridicule from the entire country.
We’re led to believe that the reason for Joseph’s early return from Baghdad – reason he’s been dishonorably discharged from the military – is as a result of disobedience and cowardice. He was given a direct order and had backed out, not only disobeying, but encouraging other military personnel to follow his lead. Joseph is accused of mutiny, and in the eyes of the military, the public and even his own family, he must pay the price.
The story is narrated by Ruth and Aubrey looking back at what happened when they were 15 and 13 years old. In so many ways, Ruth and Aubrey been left to deal with the pain of losing their much adored brother and they are mercilessly hunted by the media and even experience bullying at school. Because neither of their parents are helping the children cope and no one is telling them anything, Ruth and Aubrey’s primary source of information is the Internet, newspaper, and the ruthless reporters on the lawn. Both mother, Janet, and father, Brad, are so self-absorbed with how the this tragedy affects them that they seem unable to see how Ruth and Aubrey’s world has fallen apart.
Ms. Hyde does a great job defining the characters and she shows how the family is already broken before the incident with Joseph. It doesn’t seem like a family can survive such a nightmare, but throughout Ask Him Why we learn that people are stronger than they think. I really felt that this was a well written story and I really enjoyed the book. I don’t want this review to be a spoiler so I’m not going to introduce any other characters to you, but I’ll just say that the ending is satisfying and redeeming.
Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of 30 published and forthcoming books, including Leaving Blythe River, Ask Him Why, Worthy, The Language of Hoofbeats, Take Me With Yo, Where We Belong, When I Found You, Walk Me Home, Second Hand Heart, Don’t Let Me Go, and When You Were Older. She is an avid hiker, traveler, equestrian, and amateur photographer, and has released her first book of photos, 365 Days of Gratitude: Photos From A Beautiful World. Ms. Hyde is co-author, with publishing industry blogger Anne R. Allen, of How To Be A Writer In the E-Age: A Self-Help Guide. Her novel, Pay It Forward, was adapted into a major motion picture, chosen by the American Library Association for its Best Books for Young Adults list, and translated into more than 23 languages for distribution in over 30 countries. The paperback was released in October 2000 by Pocket Books and quickly became a national bestseller. Simon & Schuster released Pay It Forward: Young Readers’ Edition in August of 2014. It is suitable for kids as young as eight. A special Fifteenth Anniversary Edition of the original Pay It Forward was released in December of 2014.
More than 50 of her short stories have been published in The Antioch Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train and many other journals, and in the anthologies Santa Barbara Stories and California Shorts and the bestselling anthology Dog is my Co-Pilot. Her stories have been honored in the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest and the Tobias Wolff Award and nominated for Best American Short Stories, the O’Henry Award, and the Pushcart Prize. Three have been cited in Best American Short Stories. She is founder and former president (2000-2009) of the Pay It Forward Foundation, and still serves on its board of directors. As a professional public speaker she has addressed the National Conference on Education, twice spoken at Cornell University, met with Americorps members at the White House and shared a dais with Bill Clinton. For more information, please visit the author at catherineryanhyde.com. You can also find Ms. Hyde on Twitter and Facebook too!
Thanks to BookSparks for the book in exchange for an honest review as part of their Cozy Reads blog tour. Thank You to Catherine Ryan Hyde for writing a book that will leave people thinking.