THE PEOPLE WE KEEP is a unique coming-of-age story about resilience, the power of music, the need to belong, and the quest to find—and accept—the family of your heart.
There are many wonderful characters in this book—generous souls who reach out to the lost and broken young heroine, April. But April’s journey is a solitary one.
The year is 1994, and she’s a feisty 16-year-old, flunking out of high school and terrified she’ll never matter to anyone. Her worst fear is that she’s not “made for other people.” First her mother ran away, and years later, her father found a new family and moved in with them, leaving her alone in a run-down motorhome he won playing poker. As April says, “It’s where he left me so he could forget I existed.”
But she has a talent for songwriting, a hand-me-down guitar, and a dream of playing open mics. Which she does until her father returns, briefly, and smashes the guitar after an argument. Her response is to trash the motorhome, steal a neighbor’s car, and hit the road. She ends up in Ithaca, with the winter approaching and no idea of what happens next.
And then her story really begins. She trades sleeping in the car for a job at a café and a warm bed. She forms chords with nothing but fingers and air, and dares to hope she’s found a home. But when something goes horribly wrong, she leaves to protect a person she cares about, maybe even loves, because April’s greatest gift is her compassion.
Over several years she becomes a full-time folk singer, building up a network of contacts as she crisscrosses the country from gig to gig, never staying long enough to make real friends. “Keep moving or get stuck,” is her motto. She lives on convenience store food and tries not to worry about where she’ll sleep. She seems to have found what works for her—a life in which she doesn’t have to plan more than twenty minutes ahead—but she’s hiding from what she really wants: a family. Until, that is, the Universe sends several traumatic curveballs, and April realizes she already knows the people she wants to keep in her life.