Fourteen year old twins, Faith and Phillip O’Keefe have been separated. Their parents and older sister were killed in a car accident four months earlier. Faith is sent to live with her Aunt Linda, an older spinster, who can’t take Phillip because she lives in a small two bedroom house. With no other family, Phillip is sent first to live in a group home and then sent to foster parents, Howard and Cynthia.
The thing about Faith and Phillip is that they’re unusually close. And even though they’ve been separated by fifty miles, they keep in touch through psychic powers. Their older sister, Madalyn and her boyfriend, Roger, had been teaching the twins about ESP and astral projection (also known as ‘out of body experiences’) and Faith and Phillip have successfully mastered them. Faith is better at ESP, reading peoples moods and thoughts with a little meditation. Phillip is able to astral project. In other words, he can leave his body and travel elsewhere.
The book is told in letter form, between Faith and Phillip. We first find out that Faith is selling band candy with a girl in her neighborhood, who has a crush on their history teacher, Mr. Gessert. (Fun fact: I also had a huge crush on my eleventh grade history teacher. But then, all the girls did.). This girl, Sue Ellen, wants to sell to Mr. Gessert, so they go to his apartment. Sue Ellens asks to use the bathroom and is caught snooping around. Mr. Gessert kicks them out of the house and as they’re leaving, he knocks over his cane. When Faith bends to pick it up, Mr. G yells at her and grabs her wrist hurting her. Later, Faith meditates on why Mr. G acted so weird about his cane, and she learns that the cane is actually a gun.
Meanwhile, Phillip is not really loving his new foster home. He’s the first and only foster kid for Howard and Cynthia who live in the city of Seattle, which is different for Phillip who’d grown up on a farm. He gets teased at school for his country looks and for being bookish. Howard is a domineering asshole who refuses to accept that Phillip is a vegetarian. Both Howard and Cynthia belong to a strange cult-like church (called The Group), though at first they don’t force it on Phillip. One bright spot is a girl, Roxanne, who is beautiful and befriends Phillip when she sees him being bullied by Rex, the school asshole. After hearing about Mr. G, Phillip decides to astral project and sees Mr. G acting somewhat suspiciously. After seeing Mr. G though, Phillip becomes ‘grounded’ whenever he tries to project. He feels as though he’s moving through molasses and gets stuck every time he tries to move outside his body.
Faith befriends the class brainiac, Jake, in whom she confides about her ESP abilities. Faith can trust him, because Jake is the only other student who can’t stand Mr. G either. Jake is interested and Faith tries to teach him to meditate and read thoughts. Together they attempt to use ESP to find out more about what Mr. G’s up to.
One day in Phillip’s school, an underwater archaeologist comes to their school exhibiting some treasures he’d found off a sunken spanish shipwreck. Phillip and Roxanne go to the library to look at the exhibit, and Phillip is shocked to see that none other than Mr. G is there. Phillip listens to him talk to the librarian, and Mr. G pretends to be interested in their historical value. No big surprise (to the readers, anyway) when the treasures are stolen from the archaeologists van that same day.
Phillip is still ‘stuck’ whenever he tries to travel outside his body, and help comes to him in the form of a mentor in what is or is not a dream. This mentor teaches Phillip to travel as a Soul, which honestly to me doesn’t sound all that different than regular astral projection. I think we’re supposed to get that it’s some higher level of out of body travel, but what the hell do I know? I’m just a skeptic. One day, Phillip is home from school and he travels as a soul, following Roxanne as she leaves school. He sees Rex start to assault her on her walk home and slams back into his body, calling 911 and saving the day. The police are skeptical about how Phillip knew, and Howard and Cynthia are downright pissed. They don’t allow Phillip to leave the house for any reason other than school and they take his astral projection books away. Also, they tell him he has to go to The Group with them on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Faith and Jake get closer and use meditation to try and focus on what Mr. G may be up to. Jake can feel Mr. G’s fear, and Faith sees the words exchange, greedy and melt. Faith is now terrified of Mr. G and decides to confide in her science teacher, Mrs. Thompson. Mrs. Thompson takes her seriously and together she and Faith talk to the principal. The Principal comes in to Mr. G’s class later that day and asks to see his cane. Mr. G freaks out and runs out of school, never to be seen again.
Until he’s caught by Phillip anyway, who travels his soul searching for Mr. G and locating him in Canada. Mr. G is arrested and extradited. This is after a disastrous Sunday at The Group, which we now know is a full on cult and where everyone was trying to get Phillip to admit that the devil was in him.
The book ends with Roger, their older sister’s boyfriend, asking Phillip’s social worker to adopt him. And after a visit, where Phillip finally confides in her how terrible it’s been at Howard and Cynthia’s, she agrees. Roger lives much closer to Aunt Linda, so Phillip and Faith will actually get to see each other. Roger takes both Faith and Phillip to the Carribean for the summer, and Aunt Linda even joins them on her week vacation.
- The adults in this book are shockingly unsympathetic to two teenagers whose entire family has just been killed in an accident. Aunt Linda makes Faith feel like a burden (something which is smoothed over by the end of the book) and Phillip’s foster parents are derisive about his upbringing (i.e. his parents accepting his vegetarianism). Not only that, but really the two are only fifty miles apart. Not one adult thinks about maybe getting Faith and Phillip together every few weekends? In the pre-cell phone, pre-email days, the poor grieving twins had no way other than by letter to communicate. Well, letter and ESP.
- The social worker would have been sympathetic if Phillip had ever confided in her. Also, it seems like perhaps you shouldn’t place kids with foster parents who have vastly different religious beliefs. I know it’s hard to place fourteen year old boys. But putting a nature loving agnostic in with that freak show?
- Even after Phillip left Howard and Cynthia’s to go to Roger’s, Howard wouldn’t give Phillip his astral projection books back, saying he was protecting Phillip from the devil. Right as Phillip was leaving, Cynthia ran out crying and gave Phillip his books back. And it was insinuated that Cynthia got the old backhand from Howard for doing that.
- The clearest memory I have of this book is how Mr. G gets off on telling the story of The Donner Party in one of his history classes. And how weird it is that only Faith and Jake are at all disturbed by it.
- Faith gets a job doing some gardening for a neighbor and sends half her earnings to Phillip. She had to get this job because she’s afraid of asking Aunt Linda for new underwear or new shoes.
- So Rex assaults Roxanne. Gets caught red-handed and isn’t even suspended from school. He even threatens Phillip after finding out that Phillip is the one who called the cops. Still no suspension. At his trial, he gets community service and a restraining order.
- I think Roxanne is my favorite character. She’s totally pretty and could be the most popular girl in school, but she’s really interested in Phillip’s astral projection and she is friends with a nerdy kid who’s writing a sci-fi book and is genuinely interested in reading it.
- Fun fact: This book was written by Barthe DeClements and her son, Christopher Greimes. At the end DeClements says she decided to write this book after her son got her interested in “exploring nontraditional methods of expanding awareness for the past seventeen years.”
- Admit it: after you read this book you totally tried both meditating for ESP purposes AND astral projection. I know I did and I’ve always been a skeptic.