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Walking Backward

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  143 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
When Josh's mother dies in a phobia-induced car crash, she leaves two questions for her grieving family: how did a snake get into her car and how do you mourn with no faith to guide you?

Twelve-year-old Josh is left alone to find the answers. His father is building a time machine. His four-year-old brother's closest friend is a plastic Power Ranger. His psychiatrist offers
Paperback, 208 pages
Published October 1st 2009 by Orca Book Publishers
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Educating Drew
Dec 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010, middle-grades
osh is twelve years old. He has a little brother, Sam, who is four. Up until recently, his life was pretty normal. And then his mom died.

You would think that this would be a depressing book, wouldn't you? And although it deals with existential questions like what really happens to us when we're dead, it's equally thoughtful and humorous. Well, in that the humor borders on dry and nudges up against mouth-dropping-open.

For example: Josh's dad, since the mom's death is hell bent on building a time
Amy Brown
Aug 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-ya, fiction
This is the funniest book about death I've read for a while.

Josh, the protagonist, lost his mother in a bizarre car crash a month before the book begins, and we follow him, his father and his little brother through their second month of bereavement, and through learning to be a family again without the woman who held their lives together.

Walking Backward is written in Josh's voice, as a journal, and he's hilarious, capturing the pathetic absurdity of three disconnected people trying to work ou
Mar 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Trigger Warning: Death of a parent.


“I think dad is starting to live in reality again. There's nothing like a good dose of anger to push you out of the denial stage of grief. Even though we're not Jewish and we have no guidelines to help us mourn, I think we're moving forward. It's not like we're walking away from mom. I'll never let myself do that. It's more like we're keeping her with us, but without getting stuck at the place in the path where she died.”


My children's literature professor w
Lenneth Domingo
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
The title of the book hooked me from the beginning and this is the first book I’ve ever finish in my entire life not through online but a real book and I’m so happy that finally I’ve finished it. This taught me a lot of things not just about moving on but also about how important our family is.
From this book I’ve learned the importance of accepting what happened in the past and see the positive side of it and that would help us to move forward and continue to live. And for me that’s the theme of
Phyllis Wright
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
I couldn't even get though chapter 3, how sad is that? I plan on trying again later.
Aug 27, 2010 rated it liked it
Walking Backward is an extremely sad novel, and while I usually never cry during books, this one caused me to fetch the box of tissues. The author does a fantastic job with developing her characters; the voice of young Josh is dark, doleful, and realistic for a twelve year old boy; his little brother Sammy is every bit as crazy and innocent as a four-year-old can be; his reclusive, slightly apathetic dad is beautifully written. Josh’s voice tells of his family members’ different ways of mourning ...more
Nov 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, review-copy

Walking Backward was a surprise hit for me. I've read a couple of books from Orca Publishing and was underwhelmed by all of them, so I didn't have high expectation for Walking Backwards. This was the second book in a week to make me cry. Walking Backwards should come with a box of tissues. You have to be made of stone not to cry when reading Walking Backward.

12 year old Josh has the world on his shoulder after his mom dies. His father is hiding out in the basement building a time machine, so he
Canadian Children's Book Centre
Reviewed by Kris Rothstein

Josh is 12, his mom has just died in a bizarre accident and his father is building a time machine in the basement. This doesn’t leave much guidance for him or his little brother Sammy, who has no one to tell him to get dressed or go to bed and stop obsessively watching Scooby Doo cartoons. To make the grief process easier, Josh has researched how many of the world’s religions mourn and Catherine Austen does an excellent job of integrating this information seamlessly int
Josh's mother died this summer. Yeah, she died in a car accident when her car hit a tree. No, wait... She ran her car into a tree because there was a snake in the car. How the snake got in the car is a mystery.

So Josh spends his summer taking care of his little brother Sam. His dad doesn't come out of the basement very often. He's building a time machine. Yep, a time machine. He thinks he can go back in time and make the accident never happen. So Josh is stuck trying to keep himself and his brot
I liked but did not love Walking Backward, which disappointed me. I expected more from this first person, voice-driven novel about how three quirky guys cope when their wife/mother unexpectedly dies.

Told from 12-year-old Josh's point of view, we watch him struggle to cope with his father's neglect- he has withdrawn to the basement to build a time machine, presumably to save their mother, and to take up the slack in laundry, shopping and caring for 4 year-old Sammy, his little brother. Sammy, in
I got this book free from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

This is a sweet, touching story about a twelve-year-old boy's summer after the sudden death of his mother in a car crash. Josh's grief therapist suggested he keep a journal, and the book is his entries from July 30 through September 6.

Unlike a lot of books in diary format, this isn't overly detailed and sounds like it really could be an ordinary boy's journal. Josh's love and devotion to his little brother was moving. The rituals the grievin
Colleen Whale
Jul 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
This has got to be one of the most heartbreakingly sad books I've read in awhile. But it's also really funny, but in a dark cynical kind of way. I like the way it's written. It's written journal-style in the point of view of 12-year-old Josh, who is using journal writing as a way to cope with the recent death of his mom. He starts off almost like he's built a wall around himself. He's not quite ready to deal with the emotions of losing his mom. But the last couple of entries are hard to get thro ...more
Jun 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
One of the better Myrca 2011 books I've read so far. A well written book about a 12 year old dealing with his mother's death. Could be read by virtually anyone, however, in that the 12 year old is very intelligent and insightful ... in a believable way. The book contains a fair bit of information about mourning rituals in different cultures and religions. Another positive feature is that the action and the characters are not entirely predictable. All in all, an intelligent book about grieving th ...more
Valerie Sherrard
Sep 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written story told from a 12 year old boy's perspective, Walking Backward is truly exceptional. Austen captures the stages of grief perfectly in the fragmented actions of all family members as they try to deal with the loss of their wife and mother - a woman who was clearly the glue holding the family together.

As he struggles forward, Josh, who has not been raised in any faith, searches for a way to deal with his mother's loss by examining the mourning traditions of various religions
Sandra Stiles
Nov 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grades
Grief at any age is difficult. Twelve year old Josh has just lost his mother in a car accident. He has no one to show him what he should do next. His younger brother has started sleeping with him. His father has been busy trying to build a time machine. Josh has never felt so alone. At one point Josh wishes he were Jewish because they are organized about death. It is difficult as an adult dealing with death. I've worked with kids as young as five who have lost a parent and it is always tough. Th ...more
Feb 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a wonderful J book written from the point of view of a contemporary thirteen year-old boy grieving the loss of his mother in a car accident a month previous. The dark humour of his observations of his father and four year-old brother dealing with the loss in their own ways is very realistic as well as amusing. Only a few times did I feel that his remarks weren't something a thirteen year-old would say. It's always tough to decide if the intended audience (kids) would like this book as mu ...more
Sep 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
A very touching book written in first person narrative from the perspective of a twelve-year old boy who has just lost his mother in a freak car accident. He is desperately trying to make sense of this terrible loss, to come to terms with his own emotions while trying to keep his family going. I am impressed by the way the author captured the voice of this young boy - it made me laugh, cry and reach out to him. I actually felt a strong urge to dive into the story to hug this poor kid. He is hurt ...more
Feb 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
A really good book about a boy who loses his mother in a freak accident, the mom had a terrible fear of snakes so when she is driving her car and finds one in it she crashes into a tree. The boy whose name is Josh i not have a easy time. He father is building a time machine in the basement. His younger brother is talking to a power ranger toy as if it was his mom. Josh is study facts about how the various religions mourn. For this description i have made the book sound depressing while it is sad ...more
May 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Told in the first-person, twelve-year-old Josh relates his experiences during the summer after his mother dies. His father has withdrawn and his younger brother is running wild, and Josh tries to find some meaning and order in all the chaos.

I really enjoyed this. It was a strong portrayal of the feelings and actions of a grieving family, both very sad and with unexpected humor. Josh's mixed feelings about how his mother died are all jumbled up with how his friendships are going, and how his rela
Jul 22, 2010 rated it it was ok
The premise of the book was interesting- mother dies in car crash caused by snake in car and how did snake even get in the car- but the character never really became real for me. The author put many quirks in - father building time machine-brother walking backwards- and perhaps this will appeal to readers looking for more quirkiness than storyline.
Dec 22, 2010 rated it liked it
While I loved the topic and the discussions of phobias and the way different people grieve, this book was so short I felt it was over before it even started. However, the characterization was solid - if somewhat inexplicable, since none of the adult characters' motivations were ever explained.
Received from author via TRT.
Mar 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Fantastic, light-hearted book about a family's struggle to cope with the loss of their mother/wife. Written from the perspective of a 12 year old boy who is trying to piece it all together, his beliefs on death, as well as how she died.
Read it in a couple days!
May 20, 2010 rated it liked it
The book was an enjoyable read. Josh was a wonderfull character who, at the tender age of 12, had so much to deal with, with the death of his mother, the ecentricities of his father and a bewildered 4 years old brother.
Jun 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Excellent story of a 12 year old boy, his dad and his little brother trying to pull their lives together after his mom dies tragically in a car crash. Though it pulls at your hearstrings, it is also humourous, endearing ang compelling. Great first novel by a Canadian author.
Apr 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
nice book- I enjoyed it
Shannon Mccormick
Jan 29, 2010 marked it as to-read
how to cope with death
Two brothers cope with the loss of their mother. Told by the oldest brother who has no religious views to fall back on. Grieving is an unpredictable, messy business! Loved this book.
Mary Z
Feb 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tear-jerker
I wept, but I loved it. Read with tissues.
Jan 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
it is an ok book it is kind of wierd i would tell you why but it will ruin it so that is all i can say.
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I grew up in Kingston, Ontario. I studied political science at Queen's University and environmental studies at York before moving to the Ottawa area to work in the conservation movement. I now write freelance (reports as well as books) from my home in Quebec, where I live with my husband and two sons. I love wildlife, music, museums, and books and I'm grateful that my life is full of all of these. ...more