What do Josie and Beatrice teach Hollis about friendship?

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teachsuccess | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In Pictures of Hollis Woods, Josie and Beatrice are cousins who welcome Hollis into their close knit circle. At the beginning of the story, Hollis has run away from the Regan home, where her foster family consists of the Old Man, his wife Izzy, and their son, Steven. Hollis' social worker has temporarily placed Hollis with a retired art teacher, Josie Cahill, who she says is "wonderful with kids."

Although Josie provides a non-judgmental and welcoming environment for Hollis, her greatest legacy in Hollis' life is the gift of her friendship. On Josie's check days, the two enjoy irresponsibly decadent sugary treats. On Monday nights, Beatrice brings her customary Chinese take-out to share with Josie and Hollis for dinner. Both Beatrice and Josie were former art teachers. They encourage Hollis to pursue her gift of drawing, telling her that an artist cannot hide from the world, and that her gift lies in her ability to pictorially describe her love for her subject in her art. As a result of Beatrice and Josie's friendship, Hollis becomes extremely protective of both the elderly cousins, especially Josie, who is starting to lose her memory.

When the social worker tells Hollis that she has found another foster home for her, Hollis panics. She does not want to leave the vulnerable Josie and hatches a plan to take both of them to the Regans' summer home in the woods. Although Josie's memory steadily declines throughout the course of the book, her abiding trust in Hollis washes away Hollis' former defensiveness and fears about not being good enough for a family.

Maybe you're tough when you need to be tough. But trouble? What would I ever have done without you?

In the end, Beatrice assures Hollis that she will give up her dream of traveling and painting to move in with Josie so that she does not have to be sent away to a home. In the novel, both Josie and Beatrice are symbols of true friendship; their abiding faith in Hollis' intrinsic worth as a person makes an important difference in her life.

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