The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall is loosely based on a true story. One of the characters in the novel was an actual person, an artist named James Hampton. An author's note tells more of his story. I do wish I'd known this at the start; that is one reason I'm beginning my review with this 'essential' information.
Arthur T. Owens is the hero of The Seventh Most Important Thing; the book is a coming-of-age story set in 1963. Arthur has not been having an easy time of it, life has not been the same for him since his father died. And one day he loses it. He sees "the junk man" walking down the street pushing his cart full of junk, and the man is wearing his father's hat. He picks up a brick, takes aim, and hits him. Fortunately, it hits him on the arm and not in the head. James Hampton is "the junk man" and he urges the court to show Arthur mercy, and sentence him to community service. His community service will be working for "the junk man." Arthur has a list of SEVEN items to collect each Saturday. And the list is the same week to week. To collect these items, he'll need to walk the streets and neighborhoods picking up trash and even going through people's trash. It won't be easy for him, especially at first, to lower himself like that. But this process changes him for the better. And there comes a time when readers learn alongside Arthur just what "the junk man" does with his junk. And the reveal is worth it, in my opinion.
The Seventh Most Important Thing is definitely character-driven and not plot-driven. It's a reflective novel. The focus is on Arthur, on his family, on his new friendships and relationships, on the meaning of life. I liked the characters very much. The story definitely worked for me.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews