“Like a shoe that has lost its mate is never worn again, I had lost my matching part and didn’t know how to run barefoot.”
Book: Running Barefoot
Author: Amy Harmon
When Josie Jensen, an awkward 13-year-old musical prodigy, crashes headlong into new kid 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 mentor behind. Many years go by, and Samuel returns to find his old friend 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 us to our homes and families, and the love that gives us wings.
I don’t know why this book surprised me. I mean Making Faces by Amy Harmon was fabulous. But Running Barefoot blew that book out of the water. I expected high-quality from Amy Harmon, but she outdid herself with the profoundity, the beauty and the romance in this book.
Josie (despite her rather horrible name) is a precocious child and a beautiful woman. She shoulders a stunning amount of responsibility for a 13 year old after her mother dies. But at times, you’re reminded how young she is- her naivete and her self-consciousness. She’s deeply passionate about music- and that makes her pretty relatable. I think this quote is a good example of how Josie’s eloquence and maturity meshes with her age.
Sometimes I think if I could just SEE without my eyes, the way I FEEL without my hands, I would be able to HEAR the music. I don’t use my hands to feel love or joy or heartache – but I still feel them all the same. My eyes let me see incredibly beautiful things, but sometimes I think that what I SEE gets in the way of what’s…what’s just beyond the beauty. Almost like the beauty I can SEE is just a very lovely curtain, distracting me from what’s on the other side…and if I just knew how to push that curtain aside, there the music would be
Samuel as a teenager is the cliched dramatic, angry (maybe for a reason) guy. But he has his own depths and is surprisingly receptive when josie shares Classic Literature and Music with him. And perhaps the fact that he’s willing to form a deep friendship with a girl whose 5 years younger than him is the biggest indicator of his inherent sweetness.
“Your song…that is the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me.”
As always, Amy Harmon handles the topic of romance sensitively. I’ll be honest, when I heard that there was going to be a 5 year gap between the MC’s (and they’d be teenagers for a good portion of the book)- I was majorly squicked out. I don’t know why I was worried. For a good portion of the book, Josie crushes on Samuel. But it’s one of those mature crushes where you know you can intensely trust someone instead of something physical. First and foremost, Josie and Samuel are friends.
The romance comes later.
If I had a complaint about this book- it’s the Navajo myths. Though they were beautifully retold and emphasized just how proud Samuel was of his heritage, I felt that they detracted from the main story, from Josie’s and Samuel’s story.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It moved me with it’s beautiful writing and simple, honest characters. I’ve reread this book twice and I cried each time.
If you’re looking for a quiet, profound and beautiful romance; If you’re looking for a good story; If you’re looking for something that will move you- this is the book for you.