Volunteers for Literacy: MY REVIEW

Volunteers for Literacy

Author: Gretchen Elhassani

Reading is an invaluable tool. It is your doorway or gateway to knowledge, the freedom to explore and learn about different worlds and to understand the wonders that make up the many different areas that authors write about. But, what happens when you are either denied the right to learn to read, cannot afford an education or you live a life that is filled with abuse, drugs, alcohol and wind up having to care for your child and not able to go to school, then you are someone like Amanda. Amanda is struggling to give her daughter a better life but at what expense. A supervisor for a fast food restaurant she spends her days serving rude adults and teens that do not appreciate her kind smile and warm personality. Her staff, young teens, not very energetic, dependable to a point yet looking to do the least amount of work on their shifts. When two young men come into the restaurant one of her employees needs a quick ten-minute break. As Sara leaves with a young man she calls Anthony little did she know that the chain of events to follow would not only endanger her life but others too.


Theresa is looking for something to fill her day and her time. Retirement is fine but she wants to do something meaningful with her life. Thumbing through the paper she comes across an ad for City Volunteers for Literacy and rather than procrastinating she makes that all-important call to learn more. Speaking with the representative of the organization she agrees to come in for the orientation and then take the classes needed to learn how to help adults learn to read. Then, something happens to unite Theresa and Amanda. Amanda is placed with Theresa as her tutor and they agree to meet at a library to begin her tutoring session. The first session is great but the second links what happened to her employee Sara who disappeared to the young men that rob a bank and decide to hide out in the library taking people hostage. Within the framework of this novel we meet the librarians, Theresa, Amanda a young mother who never learned to read and a homeless man who spends much of his time in the library. The issues brought to light within the first few chapters alert the reader to the fact that there are many adults that never learned to read, literacy is something that we all need to promote and the homeless are often cast aside and forgotten.


While Amanda and Theresa are having a session in the tutoring room two men walk into the library and overtake everyone that’s there. Fear runs more than its average course as these two women learn the fate of so many and have to try and save everyone before it’s too late. Within the structure of this hostage situation there’s a homeless man who seems to have than just a handle on the situation. Finding the two people in charge of the program, one seriously injured they are able to contact the police and alert them to the situation in the library. But, when Amanda and Theresa become hostages too can anyone stop what is about to happen?


Anthony and Toby not only have these people locked within the lobby of the library, other entrances closed off they also have Sara locked away and hurt. But, Amanda was once an alcoholic and although she might not know how to read she does have what is necessary to hopefully save the hostages. Making eye contact with the homeless man she readily asks him if he has a bottle with him that she and the robbers can share. Telling them she wants a cut of their money and pretending to help them walk out of the library she cleverly outlines her plan to help them escape. So, what was their plan? How are they going to get out with their money? A librarian named Erik came up with what they thought was a foolproof plan. Anyone that borrows books should know that if one library does not have the book you need another one does. Interlibrary loan it’s called. Anyone can request any book from another library and it is sent to the other location. Hiding the money in the books and then arrange for them to pick them up at the other location hoping that no one finds the money within the pages of the requested book. Calling the police and telling them what they wanted she was able to stall for time. Choosing two people to help hollow out the books and plant the money was next.


The homeless man was called Joe Montana and he his friend a homeless woman spent their days in the library. He was smart and observant. This man took to the streets after having trouble finding a job. But, Joe had his own plan to create a diversion. What happens next is right out of a Rambo moving as the homeless man overtakes the robber and teaches the young guy a lesson he will never forget. Trying to save the children, figure out whose side Amanda is on and what he does you just won’t believe.


Anthony, Johnson and Toby would they get away with it would they be fooled by what the homeless man did in order to save everyone? What happens when he realizes that Amanda was Sara’s boss? So, would Anthony help her? Would he work with her to save the rest and take down Johnson?


Theresa was the hostage freed and repeated the story to the police. Answering their questions, hoping it would help save Amanda. While the police question Theresa they learn the fate of those in charge of the organization and question Amanda’s motives. But, Theresa is loyal and knows she is just pretending to work with the robbers. Then the table is turned and hopefully in the favor of the young girl that was kidnapped as the driver decides to use her as bait to get the others free. But, will it work? As one robber, one librarian, one homeless man and Amanda ban together to take down the remaining one robber another enters the library with the missing young girl. At this point the author has the librarian share with the reader how many times we have all seen homeless people and not realized that they are someone and need to be treated as people. Some lost their jobs; families and others have no place to go. This man, Joe Montana, is a vet. So, why did the system fail him? How?


As the plan comes into place of course there are unexpected outcomes that no one foresees. With the help of the Joe Montana and Erik the librarian they hope to get everyone out without anyone more fatalities. Just what they did will definitely keep you rooting for them until the final conclusion. While Amanda, Erik and Joe try to capture and take down Johnson, Theresa is meeting with the Board Of Directors of the Literacy Organization. What happens next is quite remarkable as another gunman decides to take control but the plan that Amanda comes up with is totally ingenious. What can you do with episodes of Law and Order that might scare the criminals? What happens when the sirens blare and the voices of the cops are heard loud and clear? What will the end result be?


When they three think they are home free Johnson strikes back but with the help of Erik and Joe they just might get out. But, betrayals run high among the thieves as the one person who wants to get out of this alive and help the hostages becomes one himself. One homeless man that risks it all to help strangers. Burning books to help with their escape. Leaving two people helpless on a railing. The ending will definitely surprise the reader and the final outcome you will have to read for yourself. Just what happens to the money in the books? What is the final fate of Amanda, Joe and Erik? The homeless need to be taken care of and our vets need jobs after serving their country. Adult literacy programs are valuable tools to help educate those that want to get ahead in life and make it on their own. As an educator this book brings to light why reading is such a precious tool, why libraries need more funding and why people need to not judge others by the appearance.

Fran Lewis: Reviewer

Let’s give this book: FIVE GOLDEN BOOKS