The summer of 1976 should have been the best of times for nature-loving Eli Book, but instead it is filled with terrible changes. His sister begins to hate her country. His beautiful but distant mother is caught between his traumatized Vietnam War vet father and his former antiwar protester aunt, who has come to live with them. And the only person with whom he can be himself, his best friend, Edie, begins to turn inward when her parents split up. Watching from the sidelines while his world falls apart, Eli must take his first courageous steps toward truth-telling and adulthood.
Meena and River have a lot in common: fathers forced to work away from home to make ends meet, grandmothers who mean the world to them, and faithful dogs. But Meena is an Indian immigrant girl living in New York City’s Chinatown, while River is a Kentucky coal miner’s son. As Meena’s family studies for citizenship exams and River’s town faces devastating mountaintop removal, this unlikely pair become pen pals, sharing thoughts and, as their camaraderie deepens, discovering common ground in their disparate experiences.