The Great Gilly Hopkins is not an easy book to read. Gilly is a child in a difficult situation. She is a child without a family, moved through the foster care system. She does not make it easy for her foster parents, because she believes that her mother loves her and needs her. She dreams of the happy reunion with her mother, who she has not seen for at least 8 years.
Paterson has a way of writing tear-jerker novels that deal with difficult issues that children face. This book is no exception. It takes a talented writer to capture a difficult, cranky kid in a frustration situation and somehow still manage to make her someone we want to root for. Paterson does that in this book.
It is a difficult book to read because of what we, the readers, see. We know she is a great kid, and that her new home is great. We can see the goodness of her situation. We want it to end well.
Paterson makes her story realistic. How quickly things move as Gilly goes from hating her life to finding peace.
As in other novels by Paterson, it is emotional and difficult to read the realism. It’s a testament to Paterson’s skill and storytelling that the whole story still resonates 30 years after it’s first publication.