Keeper and Kid is an exceptionally poignant coming-of-age story with a twist or two, depending on the reader’s personal experiences and opinion. One twist is that the main character is a male whom we witness “come of age.” The other is that this touching story is written by a male. Edward Hardy gives the reader a story that nearly everyone can treasure and characters they will care about.
James Keeper isn’t exactly dependable; he can scarcely take care of himself when he suddenly finds a great responsibility thrust upon him. At 36 years old, Keeper has divorced and gone on to build a rather carefree life. He works with his best friend in an antique store, has a new love interest named Leah, and his most crucial obligation each week is hosting the Sunday night card game with his friends. One phone call from his former mother-in-law changes James Keeper’s whole world.
Keeper’s ex-wife, Cynthia, is very ill, and he goes to see her in the hospital. Days later, he finds himself no longer a carefree bachelor but now in the role of responsible father of three-year-old Leo, the son James never knew existed. Coping with fatherhood is much more than Keeper ever imagined, and it isn’t just Leo who grows up in this story. “Time out” may be something for Leo, but there’s no time ‘off’ when you are the father. Leo is demanding 24/7; after a while, even Leah has had enough and leaves James to fend for himself with precocious Leo, now legally Jimmy Keeper’s son and responsibility.
Leo, who looks like his father, has his certain childish quirks. Beside Leo being a three-year-old who thinks he’s really a bear, eats only round foods and doesn’t like to bathe, he also displays the depth of losing his mother in the way a child often will, through behavior. Leo begins to soil his pants, hide things from others, and be bratty to punish other people as his way of dealing with the devastation he feels.
Leo forces Keeper to grow up and learn more about himself and those he cares for. James deals with Leo’s fear of cats, amazing vocabulary, and desire to stay up really late while still getting up very early. In doing so, he becomes Leo’s father and a better man. The characters in Keeper and Kid are appealing and interesting: one wants to root for them all. This heartfelt story can only make you smile as you read it. The love emanating from its pages is palpable, backed by the humor and pathos of the characters and making this a great read for anyone who loves a character study, coming-of-age, and family story.