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‘Chasing Windmills’ by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Sebastian is a sensitive 17-year-old who lives a shut-in existence in a New York apartment with his controlling father. Fancy growing up in oanhattan and never even trying pizza or hotdogs. And that’s not the worst of it – Sebastian’s never been to school, never hung out with other kids, never even had a friend.

The only break he gets from his tiny world is when his dad pops a sleeping pill at night and Sebastian jumps on the subway, riding it nonstop through the hours of darkness. This is where he first sees Maria, a beautiful woman just a few years older than him, who’s riding the subway while pretending to be at work because she’s too scared to tell the violent father of her two children that she’s lost her job. When their eyes meet across the empty subway car, it’s the beginning of the end of their old lives for both of them. But where do a naïve youth and a downtrodden mother run away to? And how? Especially when they don’t even know how to find each other beyond Union Square Station?

I adored this book. A divinely easy read told from each character’s perspective in alternating chapters, Catherine Ryan Hyde totally captures the angst of first love from Sebastian’s wickedly honest point of view and the dream of liberation from Maria’s. And talk about blub! It’s ages since a book’s made me cry this much (“Could be PoT, was the Ginger’s suggestion but what does he know? Stupid man) especially when it’s ultimately an uplifting story about moving on.

I expected the author to be a young writer, for some reason, probably because her youthful characters are so authentically portrayed. But in fact she’s in her fifties, with many acclaimed books under her belt, including Pay It Forward, the novel about repaying favours by handing them out to other people, which was made into a film and then became a real-life worldwide movement.

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