Just Like Me
It’s hard enough for any child to accept when a parent dies unexpectedly. But for Jamie Ward, an autistic twelve year old whose astrobiologist mother was his life, acceptance is especially hard. He spends much of his time in her closet, cataloging the familiar belongings his father has left there and thinking of things she taught him about the stars. So when Jamie finds an as-yet-undiscovered shoebox in the closet, containing his mother’s diaries and some other mysterious belongings, Jamie is beyond excited.
That night, Jamie overhears discussion that his father has cancer. Unable to fully voice his fears for his father, Jamie immerses himself in his mother’s diary, seeking comfort and a lingering connection to someone who loves him. Instead, he finds the words that break him: Anthony is not his biological father. Angry with Anthony for not telling him the truth, terrified of being left alone if his father dies, and unable to grasp how someone without a biological connection can understand or love him, Jamie runs away to find his “real” father.
Anthony is floundering as a single parent of an autistic child and struggling with grief over the sudden death of his wife. Then he is diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer. As Anthony begins to face his own mortality, Jamie runs away, leaving the diary — and many unanswered questions — behind. Anthony launches a desperate search for his son, ignoring his own declining health in order to save Jamie from the dangers of the streets. But in the end, in order to prove to Jamie that love isn’t determined by biology, Anthony must set aside his doubts and regrets to become the father Jamie needs him to be.
For Anthony and Jamie, the only way to find the love they need is to let go of the things that are keeping them apart.
Rachael hadn’t planned to lose her husband and her child in the same year. Her life has been planned since college, and at 38 years old, she’s almost fulfilled that plan. Her husband, William, is a college professor seven years her senior, who dotes on their ten year old daughter, Bekah. But when Rachael’s second child, Samuel, is born at twenty weeks and dies in her arms, Rachael’s carefully planned life begins to unravel. William leaves her, unable to deal with Rachael’s inability to let Samuel go, and Bekah chooses to live with her father. And when given the opportunity to sell their house and start over, Rachael chooses to stay, unable to leave Samuel’s ashes buried at the base of a flowering jasmine nightshade.
Austin is an artist with a unique vision, and those who commission him for a private painting-often a bereaved parent, spouse or child-get something very special: while Austin paints, the client can tell him about their deceased loved one, and Austin builds his artistic vision around those stories. Clients swear that his paintings help dampen their grief. But Austin has a unique challenge as well: he was born silent, without the ability to speak. Austin relies on his longtime friend and manager, Brand, to help him with his business dealings and to be the spokesperson for Austin’s art. But when Brand disappears after a late night of work, Austin is left flailing and unable to find his feet.
As the jasmine nightshade vine grows and begins to take over the house, Rachael’s family encourages her to reconcile with William. Austin’s paintings become more intense as his fear for his friend overwhelms him.
Then, Rachael approaches Austin with a simple request: donate one painting to Peace Lily, a local organization that supports parents grieving the death of a child. Austin agrees, on one condition: Rachael take over Brand’s service until he returns. The partnership between Austin and Rachael is one that will have far reaching consequences in both of their lives.