Keeper of the Night

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Overview

Isabel, a thirteen-year-old girl living on the island of Guam, and her family try to cope with the death of Isabel's mother who committed suicide.

Thirteen-year-old Isabel, a girl living on the island of Guam, and her family try to cope with the suicide of Isabel's mother.

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Keeper of the Night

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Overview

Isabel, a thirteen-year-old girl living on the island of Guam, and her family try to cope with the death of Isabel's mother who committed suicide.

Thirteen-year-old Isabel, a girl living on the island of Guam, and her family try to cope with the suicide of Isabel's mother.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Kimberly Willis Holt, author of the National Book Award–winning When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, crafts a moving story of one girl's struggle to cope with her mother's suicide.

Told in short chapters through the narrator's words, Holt's tale takes us to modern-day Guam, where we see how Isabela and her family try to get on with their normal lives despite the tension that surrounds them. At first, Isabela is the "dutiful daughter," tending to her anguished family, but she slowly begins acting out herself, particularly when Mary Kelly -- a non-native from a wealthier family -- moves to the area and a potential romantic interest of Isabela's gravitates toward Mary instead. But when things slowly come to a head and Isabela's brother, Frank, winds up in the hospital after cutting himself, the family begins healing communication.

Holt weaves together a beautiful, sophisticated story that won't disappoint her loyal fans. As usual, the author is keenly attuned to people and their relationships, always remembering to keep young Isabela feeling the pain of difficult family situations but distant enough to focus on her own friendships and problems. Different from Holt's previous work -- especially with the atypical setting of Guam -- this tour de force is a novel not to miss. Shana Taylor

The New York Times
Given the subject matter, Keeper of the Night could easily have been a treacly coming-of-age novel. But Kimberly Willis Holt, who won a National Book Award for When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, has created an endearing, complicated narrator in Isabel; she manages to sound both lyrical and like the eighth grader she is. — Nora Krug
Publishers Weekly
"This evocative novel set in Guam traces the months following the suicide of native girl Isabel's mother," wrote PW in a starred review. "The author works magic, recreating the sights, sounds and smells of Guam and encapsulating the essence of her characters through very few words." Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
KLIATT
Holt's fifth and sixth grade years in Guam set the stage for this story told in a series of mini-chapters, each a lyrical vignette of island life. The narrator is Isabel, an eighth-grade girl living in the aftermath of her mother's suicide. She parents her seven-year-old sister Olivia and nine-year-old brother Frank, and shuttles back and forth between her Auntie's houses while her father drifts further and further away, spending his nights sleeping on the floor on the spot where his wife "died praying on her knees." Living each day with Isabel, readers taste the culture, language, and people of Guam while experiencing the deep sense of loss that each member of Isabel's family deals with differently. Readers also watch Isabel struggle with coming of age as she sees her local friends begin to notice boys and care about dating and the popularity of being fiesta queen, and learns to understand Western values through her American friend Mary Kelly. All the while she keeps the secret of Frank's growing violence to herself. When the sub-plots climax at once, Isabel is referred to a counselor and slowly learns to accept her mother's death and her own role in her family and culture. KLIATT Codes: J*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 2003, Henry Holt, 308p.,
— Michele Winship
VOYA
Thirteen-year-old Isabel, younger brother Frank, and little sister Olivia are all affected by their mother's suicide. First, their father makes them stay with Aunt Minerva on another part of Guam. For months the siblings try to carry on. Olivia wets the bed, and Isabel covers for her to avoid the wrath of their very religious aunt. When they return home, nothing seems the same. Their father sleeps on the floor where his wife died, refuses to let anyone sit in his wife's chair, and avoids his children. Isabel makes lists, worries, and tries to take care of everyone. Olivia keeps wetting the bed. Frank starts carving "I hate you" on the walls of his room. Their Auntie Bernadette, a healer and midwife, tries to help. Isabel is angry with her friend Roman and puzzled when her friend Teresita decides to run for fiesta queen. Isabel and her friends are starting to mature, and Isabel resents her mother for not being there. Frank progresses to carving on his body and eventually uses a razor blade, carving "I hat-" into his arm before losing consciousness. After Frank is hospitalized, the children begin seeing a counselor. Their father refuses counseling, but he and Isabel begin to communicate, and the family starts to heal. Holt, author of the award-winning My Louisiana Sky (Henry Holt, 1998/VOYA August 1998) and When Zachary Beaver Came to Town (1999/VOYA December 1999), integrates the exotic setting and realistic characters into an easily read yet complex story of a girl growing up, family problems, and suicide. VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; SeniorHigh, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Henry Holt, 308p,
— Sherry York
Children's Literature
Isabel appears to be like every other teenager in her small town on the island of Guam. She has a pesky younger brother and sister, meddlesome aunts and a father who works all the time. But this story is about how she is very different from any other teenager—her life has been turned upside down by her mother's suicide. Suddenly thrown into the position of caring for her younger siblings and trying to understand what has happened for herself, Isabel shares with readers her struggles and journey to accepting her circumstances. Told in snapshot-like chapters, Isabel reveals her story piece by piece. We see her interact with her tomboy best friend, grow to see her best guy friend in a new light, deal with the changes of adolescence, worry about her younger brother's reclusiveness and reach out to her grieving father. With the help of a caring psychologist and numerous family members and friends, Isabel comes to understand not only her mother, but also herself. Holt weaves a captivating growing-up tale together with the Polynesian culture in a way that will provide teen readers with both a window to another culture and a mirror of the challenges of adolescence. 2003, Henry Holt and Company,
— Leah Hanson
From The Critics
Keeper of the Night is set in Guam, and the beauty of this setting stands in contrast with its subject matter. The book opens with the suicide of Isabel's mother and traces the paths of Isabel and her family toward recovery. As the oldest daughter, Isabel assumes responsibility for her father, her brother, and her sister, and she watches helplessly as they each descend into their grief. Her father throws himself into his work, ignoring his children. Brother Frank's anger eventually leads to self-mutilation, and her younger sister, Olivia, suffers from nightmares. Kimberly Willis Holt skillfully weaves local legends and folklore into Isabel's story. In a series of very short chapters, we clearly see her frustration with her inability to help herself and her family. Perhaps best suited for middle-grade readers, Keeper of the Night is a gentle and compelling exploration of the effects of depression on one family. 2003, Henry Holt and Company, 308 pp. Ages young adult. Reviewer: F. Todd Goodson
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-After the suicide of her mother, a 13-year-old in Guam struggles to keep her family together as she grapples with her own confusion and grief. An affirming story, suffused with atmosphere. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In a series of exquisitely presented snapshots, a young teen struggles to cope with the aftermath of her mother’s suicide. Her grief-stricken father having effectively abdicated his responsibility, Isabel must mind the family store, from which she watches both helplessly and resentfully her brother Frank’s descent into his own brand of madness. Holt makes the most of her Guam setting, subtly and inexorably involving readers in a way of life utterly foreign to most of them and getting it so thoroughly under their skin that taking in the story is like dreaming of the tropics. Isabel narrates the story in tiny present-tense vignettes, the longest of which approaches three pages. This narrative technique takes readers in and out of memory, showing how Isabel’s mother’s depression had repercussions that began in the past and echo loudly into the present. It also enables the development of several subplots that parallel the primary narrative, introducing a colorful and unforgettable array of secondary characters, whose lives touch, support, and mirror Isabel’s. Stunningly beautiful. (Fiction. 10+)
From the Publisher
An ALA "2004 Best Book for Young Adults"

An ALA "2004 Notable Children's Book"

A "Kirkus 2003 Editor's Choice"

An Amazon.com "Editor's Pick" title

A Parents' Choice 2003 Gold Award Winner

A School Library Journal "Best Book"

"Evocative" —Publishers Weekly, starred

"Beautifully written" —School Library Journal, starred

"Stunningly beautiful" —Kirkus Reviews, starred

"[H]eart-rending. . . . Kimberly Willis Holt...has created an endearing, complicated narrator in Isabel; she manages to sound both lyrical and like the eighth grader she is." —New York Times Book Review

"Holt's plain, direct prose belies the deep pain the narrator feels as she tries to understand her mother's life and death." Bookpage

"Beautifully written, this tale reaches into the heart of Guam and touches gold." Seattle Times

"[E]xtended families, unhurried lives, the wisdom of elders, the individual quirks and eccentricities and the deep love holding up the surface of everyday life will all be familiar to readers of Holt's previous work." Times Picayune

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807215708
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/8/2003
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Unabridged, 3 Cassettes, 4 hrs.
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Product dimensions: 4.50 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Kimberly Willis Holt is the author of the many award-winning novels for young adults and children, including The Water Seeker, My Louisiana Sky, and When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, winner of a National Book Award for Young People's Literature. She is also the author of the bestselling Piper Reed series of chapter books, and picture books including Waiting for Gregory and Skinny Brown Dog. Holt was born in Pensacola, Florida, and lived all over the U.S. and the world—from Paris to Norfolk to Guam to New Orleans. She long dreamed of being a writer, but first worked as a radio news director, marketed a water park, and was an interior decorator, among other jobs. She lives in West Texas with her family.

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Read an Excerpt

Keeper of the Night

A Dutiful Daughter

My mother died praying on her knees. Her rosary beads were still in her hands when we found her. She left no note, said no good-byes, gave no last hugs or kisses. Only the empty bottle of sleeping pills that had rolled under her bed proved that she'd meant to leave.

I found her first. But I didn't know she was dead. I thought she was praying.

That morning, I eased her door shut, tied on her apron, and made breakfast for my little brother and sister. I felt proud to scramble their eggs and butter their toast.

Later I tied blue ribbons in Olivia's hair and dipped the comb into a glass of water before parting Frank's. I had no idea it was the first of many mornings I'd be doing that.

KEEPER OF THE NIGHT. Copyright © 2003 by Kimberly Willis Holt.

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Reading Group Guide

“In a series of exquisitely presented snapshots, a young teen struggles to cope with the aftermath of her mother’s suicide. . . . Stunningly beautiful.”—Kirkus Reviews, Starred

“Readers are drawn into Isabel’s world and her determination to keep on going in the face of her overwhelming loss and responsibilities.”—School Library Journal, Starred

An ALA Best Book for Young Adults

A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

A Kirkus Reviews Editor’s Choice

A Parents’ Choice Gold Award|

1. Why did the author title the book Keeper of the Night? What happens at night, and what does it reveal about each character that is concealed during the day?

2. Did you like the format of the book, which consists of short passages? How was reading it different from reading a book written in longer chapters? What characteristics of this particular story lent themselves to this format?

3. What are Isabel’s most significant traits? How might another type of character react to the events in the book? What are some of the forms grief takes for the members of Isabel’s family?

4. “Whenever I think of my mother, something fills up inside me, like water filling a bucket. It fills me up so much, I’m afraid my feelings will spill over for everyone to see” (p. 9).

Why do you think Isabel fears that her feelings will come to the surface and be seen by others? What does she suppose will happen? Have you ever been afraid to let your feelings surface? Did they eventually emerge?

5. Look at the lists Isabel makes over the course of the story. Aside from the obvious function that some of them have as to-do lists, why do you think she makes them? Do you do anything similar when your life confuses or overwhelms you?

6. Pick one of your favorite “chapters” in the book. How does it add a piece to the puzzle of the story? How does the author convey a lot of meaning in a few words? Think about how you might tell the story of your own life. What part of your story might you paint a portrait of in this style? Try to write it down.

7. What realization comes to Isabel toward the end of the book? What does Dr. Gurrero (Ed) help her to see? What does she learn from the love story of Auntie Bernadette and Uncle Fernando (pp. 287 to 289)?

8. How does Mrs. Cruz’s painting of Isabel’s mother help Isabel remember her mother, when photographs do not (pp. 276 to 278)? Has a photograph or another image shaped the way you remember something or someone? Can photographs lie?

9. “Roman stops by the cabana. ‘How’s Frank?’
And just that one question is like the last drop in a full bathtub that makes the water run over the rim”
(p. 250).

When Isabel’s emotions finally do come to the surface, what thoughts, accusations, and questions come out of her? Think about what she says to Roman, Ed, and her father.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 13 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(11)

4 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2011

    a must read.

    Keeper of the Night by Kimberly Willis Holt's tale takes us to modern-day Guam, where we see how Isabela and her family try to get on with their normal lives despite the tension that surrounds them. Isabela is the story's main character is a young girl who has to hear rumors of her mother dying peacefully and others saying she killed herself. Her family falls apart before her eyes. Her brother , Frank secretly carves "I Hate" into his arms and wall of his small room, his feelings are always the same, he has no friends and is always a loner since his mother died. Their Little Sister, Olivia wets her bed and wakes repeatedly from nightmares, she is only 4, their relationship with their family will soon come together in time, and memories of their mother still linger in pain. Isabela doesn't know how to show her feelings she has never cried. Frank soon goes into the hospital for hurting himself too much, their family is scared. Everyone around them talks about them. Guilt lingers in the town like a stench that will never go away as people try to wash away death from the town , Isabela talks about her feelings to franks therapist , their family is reunited soon after this. She got accepted into the collage school swimming team. This is a great and loving book, this book never gets old.
    ( this next part is PAGE.166 of the keeper of the night )
    "Some can cry
    He can only bleed
    Every drop of blood
    Is a tear shed
    He wears his scars like badges
    For his eyes alone
    I wish he'd scream
    I wish he'd cry
    But he just bleeds "

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Deeply Rich and Moving

    This book is so so beautiful. The language is spare and it is hard not to be pulled into Isabel's world. The author did a magnificent job with painting an image of the island of Guam. I gave this book to a bunch of my friends.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2008

    Awesome!!!

    I thought this was a great book. It had an interesting (though slightly depressing) plot, and the main character, Isabel, is likable, which makes the book a lot more interesting. What the character goes through is very realistic and interesting. The chapters are short but very emotional. Totally recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2003

    Keeper of the Night

    It's so nice to read a book about the island of Guam. This book was great!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2003

    Its Awesome!

    I really enjoyed reading this book. As soon as I started reading I couldn't stop. It was very 'addicting'.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2003

    A POIGNANT STORY BEAUTIFULLY READ

    Award-winning author Kimberly Willis Holt (When Zachary Beaver Came To Town) now brings the poignant story of a young girl's determination to help her family overcome or at least cope with the pain and loss they feel following their mother's suicide. As read by actress Vivian B. McLaughlin the tale is profound, painful, yet beautiful. Isabel is good at pretending. She would like to imagine that her mother's death was not unusual; she can think that as no one seems able to voice the reality of the tragedy. Tata responds to overwhelming grief by sleeping on the floor where her mother's body lay. Olivia wets her bed and is wracked by nightmares. Frank, on the other hand, expresses his abandonment by cutting into his bedroom wall. Isabel knows that she must help them, but how? There are times when truth is the only antidote for pain.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Shorter story

    The story was OK and could have been more developed. For a young girl dealing the the suicide of her mother, it seemed they never really got much into her emotions, but more into the day to day activities aftere the event. While the story was touching at times, I felt it strayed or was not what I was expecting.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    highly

    Keeper of the night is an amazingly written novel by Kimberly Willis Holt. this book is about a teenage girl who's mother just killed herself. she lives on a small island and no one understands her pain. her brother soon becomes suicidal and tries to kill himself. Her dad has distanced himself from the family and causes more pain to come to his torn apart family. in the end the family comes together and they make it past this horrible stage in their lives. i do recommend this book to anyone who likes a page turner that keeps you on the edge of your seats. my favorite part of the book is when she finds her love of diving and that helps bring peace to her. her friends become backstabbers, and i can relate to that in some ways. i solely recommend this to teenage girls though.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2007

    A reviewer

    I like this book alot because it was easy for me to understand and I like that they always explained what the charatcer was doing. I also liked it becasue there was always new things going on. My favortie charater was Isabel because she always was doing something for her family or friends. She is a nice and caring person, she always thought of others before she thought for her self. She was the keeper of the night by taking care of things at night like her sister and helping her brother and dad. This my favortie book by far. It was and outsatnding book!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2003

    Keeper of the Night

    HAFA ADAI CHe'LU! This book takes place in the island of GUAM nai.. It was so good! READ IT!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2003

    this book iz okay

    i dont think this book iz recomended 4 children...it is kind of traumatizing becauz her brother cuts himself but it has a happy ending

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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