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The Kindness of Strangers    by Katrina Kittle order for
Kindness of Strangers
by Katrina Kittle
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Katrina Kittle's The Kindness of Strangers is a story told by four characters - Sarah Laden, her sons Nate and Danny, and their friend Jordan Kendrick. Sarah has been a widow for two years since her beloved husband died suddenly and unexpectedly of cancer. She loves to cook and supports her family by operating a catering business out of her home in a suburb of Dayton, Ohio.

Sarah worries about her two fatherless sons. Danny Laden, who is eleven, doesn't have many friends, and has learning difficulties. Nate Laden, sixteen, seems to be throwing away his educational opportunities by hanging around with the wrong friends and cutting school. Nate and Sarah are having serious problems communicating. Danny and Jordan used to be best friends, but something has happened that Danny won't discuss with Sarah, and now he doesn't like Jordan any more. Worse yet, Jordan's mother and Sarah are best friends.

When the story begins, Sarah is having a bad day. First she finds a chick embryo in an egg she cracks for breakfast, and then Nate is rude and unpleasant to her. Once the boys leave for school, she goes shopping for ingredients for the day's cooking jobs, and as she drives home past the Kendrick house, she sees Jordan emerge into the rainy morning, late for school. She offers him a ride, realizes he's feverish and seriously ill, and before she knows it, Jordan is in the hospital, and her life and her family are about to change forever.

I really liked this book. The shifting viewpoint provided a wonderful insight not only into the characters and their feelings, but also into the developing action. When Sarah is telling the story, we think Nate is much worse than when Nate is in charge. The love the Laden family has for each other is apparent in each version. We gradually learn about Jordan's horrible secret and that of his family, and we begin to care deeply about him and about the three Ladens as they tell their stories.

These four characters deal with a difficult situation, both individually and together, and they not only survive, they thrive. I had a hard time putting the book down, as I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen next.

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