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Come the Morning    by Mark Jonathan Harris & Marissa Roth order for
Come the Morning
by Mark Jonathan Harris
Order:  USA  Can
Wayne State University Press, 2005 (1989)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Come the Morning is a fictional account of the Gibson family that addresses an ongoing social issue. It gives a voice to the homeless, who sleep on the streets under cardboard cartons, with newspapers for a blanket, transporting belongings in a grocery cart, or carrying all they own in cardboard suitcases tied up with ropes. They can be seen searching rubbish for food, or for plastic bottles and tin cans to exchange for nickels or dimes. Homelessness can happen to anyone, for many and varied reasons.

The title of this story of the Gibson family is taken from a Psalm: 'Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.' It's written simply but poignantly, with sensitivity and insight from the perspective of the eldest child, thirteen-year old son Ben. Just five months before, Clyde Gibson left his family without a good-bye. Discouraged at not finding work - after a back injury from a fall from an oil derrick, and the closing of an auto parts factory - Clyde headed for Los Angeles, California. He described LA to his family as 'dazzling, full of wealth and promise ... They named it the 'city of angels' for the angels who watch over your dreams.' One morning an envelope arrives with a Bel Air address, enclosing a brief note on fancy stationery and a $100 money order.

Constance Gibson and her three children travel by bus from El Paso to LA to search for Clyde. Downtown, Ben notices tall buildings change to small shops, 'poorer and shabbier than El Paso'. They find that Clyde only worked in Bel Air for one day, cleaning the yard. They stay in a rundown hotel with roaches skittering everywhere. After their belongings are stolen, they move to the Heavenly Light Mission. Ben plays his harmonica on the streets for coins tossed on his jacket. He holds on to the belief that his father's luck will change - maybe he is in LA chauffeuring a limousine, or sitting in a rich hotel coffee shop. Ben sees his dad come out of a laundromat, but by the time he crosses the street, Clyde has disappeared. Though the Gibsons show Clyde's photo to people everywhere, no one recognizes the man in the picture.

The Gibsons are welcomed to Harmony Camp, and told, 'We ain't got much here, but what we got, we's willing to share' (the camp is later destroyed by bulldozers, after complaints from citizens). Litter is strewn thickly on the streets, in pools of water, with bugs and insects feeding on the surface. People line up in the early morning hours to get a mission room for the night ahead. Ben's dreams are flooded with images of his dad and their past Oklahoma fishing trip, family barbecues in the park by the Rio Grande, singing on the way to a shopping spree in Juárez. Luckily fate (or faith in a higher power) takes a turn, and the Gibsons are connected with the Salvation Army, which has a vacancy. Here the four Gibsons are provided room and board, the children enroll in school, and 'for now' they have a support system, with hope for the future.

The 2005 edition of Come the Morning includes black and white photographs by Marissa Roth. If nothing else in Harris's widely-acclaimed novel affects the reader, his powerful message in the Afterword (explaining homelessness) will! Harris has won several Academy Awards® for Best Feature-Length Documentary, including In The Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (a true story of efforts to save children during the Holocaust), written with Deborah Oppenheimer. I highly recommend Come the Morning.

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