It is 1989, and the Giants are in the World Series. A series of small earthquakes puts San Francisco on edge, and a young boy and girl form an unlikely friendship.
Etan’s words leave him the day his mother leaves his family. He does not know why his words stopped, and no one can seem to help him get them back — not his grandfather, not his dad, and not his friends.
Malia used to go to school, but now she does not leave the house due to a skin condition. The other kids at school call her “Creature.” When Etan is sent on an errand by his neighbor to deliver something to her house, he meets Malia. They become friends, spending time in the redwood forest behind Malia’s house, sharing stories and aspirations. Malia wants to be a singer and Etan wants to have his mother back, his family repaired, and the Giants to win the World Series.
As Etan encourages Malia to be the singer she wants to be, Etan’s dad drifts away from him and his grandfather. Etan isn’t sure how to navigate this new normal, with his dad frustrated at Judaism and his Mom away from home. He seeks comfort and guidance from his grandfather, who shares with him not only the story of his own immigration to America through Angel Island, but also the magical properties from a box that has been in the family for generations. It contains mud from his European hometown and from the Dead Sea, and it was used to create a Golem. His grandfather shares the story of the Golem and the protection it provided to the Jewish people in many ways long ago. The height of the storytelling coincides with the Loma Prieta earthquake, which occurs while Malia and Etan are at Malia’s first public performance.
This beautiful book is written in the form of a poem. The language is innovative yet accessible, and the author makes a note of including information about Angel Island, the “Ellis Island of the West.” It’s a wonderful story with the state of California and Etan’s community depicted as active characters and participants. It paints a beautiful picture of intertwined families, of a community discovering its strengths, immigration across generations of Americans, and the unlikely friendship between two kids trying to find their place in the world.