Saturday, December 26, 2009

THE DAY I KILLED JAMES by Catherine Ryan Hyde

THE DAY I KILLED JAMES is not the first book I've read by Catherine Ryan Hyde.  Having enjoyed all the others, I decided to pick up a copy of this one, and I'm glad I did.  As the title suggests, this is not a light-hearted romp, but then most of Hyde's books focus on serious subjects and how her characters deal with them.

Theresa, also known in part of the story as Annie, is plagued with guilt.  She is just finishing high school and finds her 22 year old neighbor James extremely annoying.  He seems to be everywhere.  He's nice enough and is always offering a helping hand.  One day it's washing her car and another it's fixing some transmission fluid leak.  All Theresa wishes is that he would leave her alone. 

The most important thing on Theresa's mind these days is figuring out what's up with her boyfriend Randy.  He seems to want to make their relationship some sort of "open" arrangement so he can see other girls.  That's the last thing Theresa wants, but if it will make him happy, she's willing to give it a chance.  Against her better judgment she follows a friend's advice and asks James to take her to a weekend party.  Knowing that Randy will be there with the other girl, she hopes when he sees her with James, he'll realize his mistake.

At the party that is indeed what happens, but Theresa never realized how much she would be hurting James by using him to make Randy jealous.  James sees Theresa kissing Randy, and he takes off on his motorcycle.  It is his final ride.  When the police investigation reveals no skid marks and no attempt to swerve, they rule the accident a suicide leaving Theresa racked with guilt.

In an attempt to escape the horrible situation, Theresa runs away and takes a tour guide job and begins to use the name Annie.  With some new friends met on the job and often working ten hours a day, Annie is able to muddle along, although James is always in her thoughts.  However, while living in a rundown trailer park, she meets an eleven year old girl living with her brother and an abusive mother.  Focusing on the problems of young Cathy allow Annie to realize running away from her own problems is not the right solution for the long term. 

In THE DAY I KILLED JAMES, Catherine Ryan Hyde explores love and the responsibility it carries with it.  Readers will watch as Theresa/Annie searches for the answers she needs to cope with her feelings of guilt enough to be able to honor James instead of just mourn him.  Several other titles by this author are the well-known PAY IT FORWARD and DIARY OF A WITNESS.  Blog followers should also watch for an upcoming contest offering a signed copy of Hyde's THE YEAR OF MY MIRACULOUS REAPPEARANCE.

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