After Abby Braverman’s best friend and neighbor Cat moves to Israel, she isn’t sure how she will handle seventh grade alone. Although her moms are supportive and she is close to her older brother, Paul, Abby struggles to socialize at school without Cat. She opts to spend quiet time in her room, where she journals poems and works on her crocheted afghan in the company of her confidante, a pet turtle named Fudge. When Paul is diagnosed with testicular cancer on Rosh Hashanah, Abby’s world is shaken. As she watches Paul brave surgery and difficult chemotherapy treatments in the hospital, Abby does her best to be empathetic and helpful even though it’s hard to witness her usually effervescent brother become weak and sick. As Abby, Mother Rachel, and Mama Dee handle the hurdles of Paul’s illness and his rocky recovery, Abby leans on her new neighbor, Conrad, a thoughtful and kindhearted boy who has some challenges of his own. Despite social difficulties and an upended home life, Abby eventually learns to advocate for herself, be a supportive sister, daughter, friend and, ultimately, find her strength in the world.
The book features significant Jewish content. Throughout the story, Abby and her family celebrate the Jewish holidays, often alongside her wisecracking Zeyde and crocheting Bubbe, whose speech is peppered with Yiddish. Abby also connects elements of Judaism to her events in her life and leans on them in difficult times. For example, she considers the impact that neglecting to hang a mezuzah may have had on Paul’s diagnosis and subsequently hopes that by atoning on Yom Kippur, Paul will get well.
Highly recommended, Abby, Tried and True is a beautifully crafted novel that offers a realistic look into an unfortunately common scenario that many families face. Readers will empathize with Abby, who is a kind, caring, and loyal protagonist.