All tagged Religion

Review: The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

...she held out a hand toward Honor. A small, ambiguous gesture, it still had the power to untwist Honor's stomach, for it said: I am running away. Help me. She and the woman were now linked by that gesture.

In Tracy Chevalier's The Last Runaway, Honor Bright, a fresh new arrival and Quaker from England, stepped upon America's shores carrying within her an idealism bred from years of an upbringing that taught her that,

“...everyone has a measure of Light in them and though the amount can vary, all must try to live up to their measure.”

Honor feels feels bound by her morality and what she believes are universal truths to take a stand, which ultimately requires she follow her heart. Her heart would lead her to take a road less taken, to defy her husband's wishes and the law of her newly-adopted country.

Robert Frost put into words the dilemma that played upon Honor's sense of right. She looked upon the horrors of slavery that opened before her and knew she must choose. Two roads lie before her and one she must trod upon.

Honor's first less travelled road was prompted by her decision to accompany her sister to America where her sister planned to marry and settle in Ohio with her betrothed and settling into life as a farmer's wife. This road for Honor began as a roiling and wretched seasickness lasting the entire trip across the grey sea. The experience left a  horrible memory for Honor. She determined sea travel was not an adventure she would elect to again experience, so staying in America was to be her fate.

Upon arriving in their new county, Honor's sister succumbs to illness and dies before seeing the man she intended to marry. Honor continues the trip to Ohio alone where she temporarily stays with her sister's intended spouse.

In England, morality was familiar and ordered, righteousness a way of life--in America, the lines blurred.

Review: Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

It’s like a Venn diagram of tragedy.


Once Was Lost by Sara ZarrA perfect flower graces the cover of Sara Zarr’s Once Was Lost. Its soft pink petals top a long, graceful stem. One perfect petal drifts from an otherwise unmarred blossom like a tear falling to the ground.

Blemished  perfection symbolized as a lone teardrop perfectly represents Sam’s life.  Samara, Sam to her family and friends, lives in a cushioned and beautiful world of her family’s creation. Her father’s a pastor, her mother’s a lovely woman, active in her church and liked by her peers.

Yet, a darker side coexists within this dubious heaven.

Fifteen-year old Sam’s secure life in small town Pineville shatters following two events. First, her mother’s DUI lands her in rehab for  alcohol addiction. While Sam struggles with the pain of her mother’s illness and absence, she grapples with embarrassment when asked about when her mother will return; worse yet, she’s confused by father’s unwillingness to be forthright with his congregation about the reason for his wife’s absence. Sam’s appalled by what she perceives as an inappropriate relationship between her father and the attractive and lively youth minister, Erin.

Review: Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker

Small Town Sinners by Melissa WalkerI have recently been reading through a number of young adult novels recommended to me by Sarah dealing with challenging, contemporary issues.

Among these have been Sara Zarr’s incredible Story of a Girl, Siobhan Vivian’s brilliant The List and Small Town Sinners, Melissa Walker’s difficult, yet sensitive 2011 release about a small town evangelical community.

Each of these has been quite moving in very different ways, and each has been equally memorable, addressing issues and making me think without being “problem novels.” I love seeing this level of innovation of depth from today’s YA writers. 

I grew up in a small town, taught in a small town and currently live in one. There are many wonderful aspects of this experience and just as many not-so-great ones. Small towns are sometimes tempting to stereotype but also defy classification. Melissa Walker skillfully captures the complexity of a small town, walking a line in which she peels back the layers of small town life and the influence of strong Evangelical fervor.

Small Town Sinners is told from the point-of-view of Lacey Anne Byer, the daughter of the children’s pastor for the House of Enlightenment, her town’s evangelical church, who says,

I’m just trying to figure out what truth really is for me.


Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell

Riley Rose. What a name and what a personality.

She’s complex, beguiling and difficult for others to understand. Her outward appearance and verbal flippancy belies the depth of her emotions. She charmed me with her always unexpected and often cynical insights.

In Everything Beautiful, Australian author Simmone Howell created a character who’s a seemingly tough teen with a rough exterior, yet inside is soft, tender and vulnerable. 

She’s overweight. She’s experiencing an acute loss after the death of her mother. She’s having difficulty adjusting to her father’s new love, a Christian woman who’s a radical contrast to everything that was her family. Riley Rose is experimenting with sex. She’s found a great new friend who’s a perfect partner in any new adventure they embark on.

In other words, Riley Rose is one vulnerable teenager.