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Becoming Chloe    by Catherine Ryan Hyde order for
Becoming Chloe
by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

This is a tale of two young people - seventeen-year old, gay Jordy, inflicted with a head wound by his father and expelled from home; and eighteen-year old Wanda, who has seen and experienced things in her life that no one - let alone a youngster - should have had to deal with. Jordy makes his shelter in a cellar in New York City. One evening he hears noises coming from a dirty alley, and sees a girl held against her will. When he calls out that the police have been called, the attackers scurry away.

Jordy has rescued Wanda Johnston. He learns that she does not much care for her given name, so they agree on Chloe. As Jordy escorts Chloe for a medical checkup he muses, 'She looks like she could have been the popular girl. Like she'd open her mouth and say something to make it sound like the world should revolve around her because she's pretty ... instead she keeps talking like she doesn't even know there is a world around her. Like she doesn't know what world she's in.' The two come together out of need, caring for each other.

Jordy, who works evenings at a fancy restaurant, rents a short-term apartment, knowing that 'Chloe and elderly landlord Otis babysit each other while I wait tables. Maybe I'm making too much out of too little, but the more time goes on, the more I feel like I can't trust Chloe to be alone ... but I can't put my finger on why I think that. I just feel better when she and Otis have each other.' Otis alerts Jordy to seek help for Chloe, whose simple-mindedness is perhaps her defense against the bad things in her life.

Before Otis dies, he bequeaths his '54 Chevy pickup truck to Jordy. After Chloe tells Jordy 'I just don't believe the world is a nice place', they make a pact to travel across America in the truck, to visit places like the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, Niagara Falls, and the Rocky Mountains, and to ride horseback on the beach at Big Sur. Chloe promises not to run away and Jordy, in turn, promises to let her go if she so desires at journey's end.

As the trip progresses, these two human beings connect. Jordy and Chloe take the prettiest routes. They climb mountains and travel over rough terrain. They experience people's kindness at campsites, and along the road. They travel on bicycles after the truck has met its end. They hitchhike, and meet 'not so nice humans'. Their 'beauty journey' is not without pain and trials, yet richly weighted with joy, laughter and hope, deep friendship, and the accompanying responsibility as they make each other family.

As Catherine Ryan Hyde did in Pay It Forward, she portrays human emotion, redemptive forgiveness, and deeply felt commitment. Though her characters haunt the dark corners, she reveals many hidden joys of life's journey and the remarkable resilience of the human soul.

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