South of Main Street by Robert Gately

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Henry Wolff is a middle-aged man who sees the world as a child, or maybe it is just that adults see him as one.  Actually, he’s an example of what can happen when a young man goes to war and comes home mentally injured as a result. Henry’s wife, Mary, has just passed away and, although Henry is fully aware of this, he is only able to communicate to others through his seemingly immature ways. He makes jokes at odd moments, makes observations that are completely off topic, leaving others speechless, and often seems detached from reality. He is quite capable of holding a conversation, but often doesn’t truly see the purpose as to why he should. What people frequently miss is the absolute kindness that is in Henry. He misses Mary greatly and occasionally speaks to her, but others, including his two daughters, Robyn and Sharon, don’t recognize that he grieves just as much and even more than they do.

What Henry is unaware of is that Sharon is certain that he can’t take care of himself, since her mother had dealt with that burden for many years. Robyn is positive he can, and is trying to change her sister’s opinion of their father. Unfortunately, Sharon has filed with the courts to declare him incompetent, and the hearing is in a few weeks. Although Henry is aware that his daughters have some conflict, he doesn’t catch on that he is at the heart of it. Robyn explains that until this is resolved the court has decided he will receive an allowance of twenty dollars a day and she will make sure his bills are paid. Their family has always lived moderately, even though Mary was quite wealthy. Now, her money has gone to Henry and Sharon doesn’t see why she and Robyn shouldn’t divide the estate and be able to get on with their lives in financial comfort.

Without Mary to keep him home, Henry begins to move about the town, meeting and greeting people. Everyone knew Mary and her odd husband; she was active in the community, while he was fairly well corralled at home. He meets Dixie – a drug addict with dreams of a future – his neighbor’s son, Danny, whose spirit is crushed by an absentee mother and a drunk, abusive father, and homeless Joe, who lives under a bridge. Soon, Sharon and Robyn begin to see withdrawals from Henry’s bank account. Sharon wants an accounting and Robyn is aware that he is probably giving money away to his new friends.

This is a story not only of Henry, but also how kindness and understanding can change lives, even a whole town. It is incredibly obvious that Henry’s mind is damaged, but his utter enjoyment of people is still intact, and perhaps enhanced by his mental state. I was intrigued with him and couldn’t guess what he would do next: swing from a tree next to his house, facilitate his moving from the second story to the first just to pick up his mail, or acknowledge his neighbor before he climbs back up his tree, just because he knows his talent for tree-climbing annoys her for some reason he can’t fathom and doesn’t care to. The townspeople consists of the usual observers, participants, gossips, and are so very interesting. I couldn’t anticipate where this story was going, but I knew Henry was having quite an impact. I don’t believe I fully disliked any of the characters, even Sharon, who I found to be rather self-serving and a bit overly firm in her beliefs on life. Sometimes, Henry sounds like a book on self-improvement, but it’s sort of comforting to have someone tell us it will be alright and to just stay the course. I believe most readers are going to enjoy this book immensely and come away feeling it was well worth their time.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – Contemporary for older teens and adults.
  • Level of sexuality – None.
  • Is there graphic language? Not really, although Dixie considers herself the epitome of foul language.
  • Did I cry? No, but there are some sad situations.
  • Did I laugh? No, but there are some smile-provoking scenes.
  • Is this part of a series? No.
  • Level of character development – Overall, there is a lot of maturing in the characters.

I give this book ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars, because it confirms my belief that there can be good in this world.

Available here on Amazon

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