The River At Night, Erica Ferencik, author, Joy Osmanski, narrator

riverThe novel is told in Wini’s voice, one of the four old friends in their mid to late thirties who are fighting the idea of middle age. In that spirit, they are taking a hiking/white water rafting trip, organized by Pia Zanderlee, perhaps the daredevil of the group, who is long, lean and athletically fit. This is the latest of their yearly trips to bond again and renew their close friendship, a friendship that life has interrupted, at times.

Wini is not eager to go, and Pia is attempting to persuade her. When Sandra and Rachel agree to go, she gives in, not wanting to be the one they left behind, feeling enormous guilt about her ridiculous fears. Each of the women has their own personal reasons for wanting a few days respite from their world. Each has issues, either in their marriage, their job or their personal life. However, except for Pia, the women are really not even physically ready for the difficult hike to the rafting site, let alone the rafting, but Wini is perhaps the least prepared and her severely blistered feet are tended to by Sandra.

Sandra seems to be the most stable and balanced friend of the group. She is recovering from cancer. Her husband, however, is very abusive and controlling. She has a brilliant, but somewhat disabled child, Ethan, who is loved well by his sister Hannah. She protects him, similarly to the way that Wini used to protect her brother, Marcus. Wini is trying to deal with the recent death of Marcus, a developmentally challenged child who used sign language to communicate, a skill which would serve her well on this trip. Wini is also an accomplished swimmer, which will help to save her life when the raft capsizes. Wini’s husband Richard has decided he no longer wishes to be married to her. Rachel is an Emergency Room nurse. Her talents and skill will come in handy as they suffer from many mishaps, but her arrogance and quickness to anger might also place them in danger, at times. She is a recovering alcoholic. Pia is a jock, the part of her personality which hides her true fearful nature. She is hungry for love and is enamored with their much younger guide, Rory Ekhart. He is a handsome, well built, 20 year old college student. He and Pia seem to have similar personalities, each seemingly willing to take risks, even unnecessary ones, sometimes behaving recklessly or thoughtlessly, and they are drawn to each other.

The women are going to have an unexpectedly difficult, nightmare of a trip. In just a few days, as their connection to civilization recedes, they will each be forced to face the fractures in their friendships, the true feelings they have for and about each other, and an assortment of dangers they could never have even imagined. They will be forced to reevaluate their thoughts on what is important in life. Perhaps, the most important idea they will face is just how much they want to go on living.

The author sets up a tense atmosphere with the discovery that Rory has a bit of a checkered past regarding assault and disorderly conduct, and he is also carrying a gun. His father owns a lot of land in the very remote area of Dickey, where they are headed. Some of the locals resent his invasion of their natural environment. They are not friendly. Rory’s dad had carved a path to the Eagle Lake, in this uninhabitable place, to start the rafting/guide business. He has disturbed and contaminated their little piece of G-d’s world. Rory is now supposedly reformed and no longer reckless. He loves the rafting and guide business. As the story develops, the reader’s mind will be reminded of the horrifyingly, scary movie, Deliverance, that those of a certain age will surely remember.

During their developing terrifying experience, when they lose their raft, a friend, and their guide, the surviving members will encounter an odd woman and her son, living in the woods, smelling like feral animals. They live off the land completely. The woman, Simone is very strange, and what they soon discover about her will terrify them. Her son Dean cannot speak. He is in his early twenties and has lived in the woods since the age of 5. Simone said he was born without a tongue, but that story will prove to be a lie. Wini’s ability to use sign language with him enables her to discover the murderous plans Simone has in store for them. She is able to communicate with Dean to try and intervene. How that plays out in the novel will keep the reader on the edge of the seat, up late into the night, in order to discover what happens next.

Each of the four women finally discovers what is really important to them, and each will deal with their own ghosts and losses in different ways, truly affected by what they went through in this recent reunion experience which defied their idea of reality. They had to carefully consider their real desires, the choices and decisions they had made in their lives, their ability to be compassionate and their need for friends and family.

Until the end of the book, I was captivated, listening late into the night, but in the author’s attempt to tie up all the loose ends, I felt that she seemed to get embroiled in too much melodrama and coincidence. I think the author wanted the reader to wonder about what was better, the idea of living in a civilization that was destroying the environment or the idea of living in the wild, off the land. In both scenarios, there would be a great deal of violence and danger. Perhaps she thought a compromise, using the ideas of both worlds, would be the ultimate outcome of such thinking.

 

 

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Warlight, Michael Ondaatje, author, Steve West, narrator

warlightIt is 1945, and the war in Europe has only recently ended. Two young British teens have been told that they are going to be cared for by a guardian since their father, emotionally damaged by the war, has gotten a better job and will be moving to, and working in, Singapore. Their mother Ruth Williams tells them that she will join him there. It will be for a year. She packs meticulously.
The teenaged children, one 14 and one almost 16, Nathaniel and Rachel, have misgivings about their new caretaker, a large man whom they nickname the Moth. His friends and lifestyle make them think that he is not what he pretends to be, and is perhaps, instead, mixed up in something nefarious. As all sorts of people begin arriving at their home, they are drawn into a world of illicit activity. Why they wonder, would their parents choose such a guardian for them? Still, as time passes, they begin to warm to the Moth and another man they call the Darter.
When they discover that their mother’s trunk is in the basement and realize it had never been shipped to Asia, they have many unanswered questions. The teens do not understand why their mother and father would choose to leave them behind and not remain in touch with them. Where was their mother if her trunk was in the basement? They wonder if either of their parents was still alive.
As the story moves very deliberatively and subtly toward the discovery of the reasons behind their abandonment, it is Nathaniel who is the more interested sibling. He wants to know more about his mother’s wartime past. As he grows more inquisitive, his sister grows angrier and more estranged from their mother. Events have occurred which have scarred her emotionally, even as they piqued her brother’s interest. As they were forced to both grow up under these odd circumstances, they witnessed things that they did not understand.
As the novel progresses, and their mother returns, hints and tidbits are repetitively revealed throughout the narrative. As more than a decade passes, very slowly and methodically, certain ideas recur in the story, they connect with each other to explain Ruth Williams past and her involvement in the British intelligence service. Now an adult, Nathaniel realizes, a bit late, that his mother’s life was, and still, may be in danger. His sister Rachel does not care or want to know anything further about her.
There are many interesting characters in the book, but they and the timeline are sometimes difficult to keep track of, which indicates to me that a print book would be far better than an audio, although in this case, the narrator did a perfectly stellar job reading it, without getting in the way of the story. Although, in the end, all of the characters are in some way connected, it seems almost unintentionally, as their connection is revealed through a series of memories and coincidences which occur as the years pass, the reader discovers that all of the characters were not exactly what they appeared to be, at first. They all seemed to have double identities, double lives. The discovery of their backgrounds and purposes in the novel, made it that much more interesting. For myself, I wondered, what exactly did the author have in mind as the purpose for the book.

1-Would I have been happier if it had been more clear cut in its presentation or was the indirectness of the narrative what actually made it so interesting?

2-Was the book’s purpose to show the futility of war and the unending hate and desire for revenge that continues even after?

3-Was it an effort to show that ordinary people could be heroes or villains, depending on whose eyes perceived them or what they themselves chose to be?

4-Was it to show how certain events influenced the lives of each of the characters and framed their futures?

I must admit, I was not very sure, about the answers to any of my questions, but I did enjoy the story for the sake of the story itself and the fact that it left me thinking was a testament to it, as well.
In my opinion, this book will make a very interesting movie.

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The Woman in the Window, A.J. Finn, author; Ann Marie Lee, narrator

windowThis psychological thriller was written with a fine hand, using an exceptional choice of vocabulary to describe scenes and evoke images in superbly descriptive ways. The images will come alive in the mind of the reader because of the juxtaposition of words. No sentence is wasted and no description overdone. The narrator’s expression and emphasis evokes each scene and sets the stage perfectly for it to play out. She never becomes the story, but rather enhances the telling of it. I highly recommend it as an audiobook.

These are some of the things we know about the novel. We know that there is an agoraphobic woman, Dr. Anna Fox, who is a child psychologist. She has a husband named Ed and a young daughter called Olivia. We know that she has suffered from some kind of terrible trauma because she is unable to leave the confines of her home. We know that she lives alone, separated from her family. We know that she has a tenant who helps her around the house in exchange for a lowered rent. We know he is called David. We know that he is doing some work for the new neighbors across the park. We also know that she has spent the last 11 months, while unable to leave the house, either staring out the window, watching the lives of other people play out as her own stagnates behind closed doors or watching old classic movies on TV or engaging with others on the internet, others on a site called Agora, for people like her. We know that her user name is “the doctor is in” and she is committed to helping others with her affliction. We know that there are only a couple of people who engage with her to try and help her get through this terrible emotionally fraught time of her life. One is Dr. Fielding, her therapist. One is Bina, her physical therapist. We know that aside from them, she is most often alone watching the lives beyond her windows. We know that she has noticed that a new family, the Russells, Jane, Alistair and Ethan, have moved into a very high-end home across the park from her. They do not cover their windows, and she watches the goings on in their home avidly. We know she has a very vivid imagination. We also know that she believes she has witnessed a murder. We know that no one believes her. We also know that since she most often drinks and takes pills, lives in a bathrobe and is not too serious about her own hygiene that she is suffering greatly, emotionally, and may possibly be hallucinating. We know when she calls the police to report incidents she has witnessed from her window that the police view her as a nuisance. We also know that although the neighbors do not come calling much, she does not seem to want any visitors. We know that she believes a woman has come to visit her and has played chess with her. We know she believes it was Jane Russell, and that it was she who sent her the candle as a gift.

We don’t know why she Dr. Fox is in such pain that she cannot leave her house. We do not know much about the tenant, David, who lives in her basement for minimal rent in exchange for help in the house. We know the new neighbors have a young, well-mannered, home-schooled son who came to see Anna and brought her a scented candle, a present from his mother, but we do not know much about him other than the fact that he seems shy and sensitive to Dr. Fox. We don’t know much about the Jane Russell that Alistair and the police bring to see her. So, we don’t know if she has imagined the murder because of her addiction to murder movies and her carelessness with drink and drugs. We don’t know if her intuition is always on the mark or if it is colored by her emotional distress. We don’t know why she has conversations with her husband and her daughter from afar. We know that the internet is her salvation as it is her way to communicate with the outside world, but we can’t be sure how much influence it or the TV has on her psyche.

We are left to constantly wonder about Anna as her mind wanders, conjuring up all sorts of mysteries that cannot be solved. We are left to wonder whether or not they are real or figments of her confused imagination. We are left to wonder about who the title means is the woman in the window. Is it Anna or Jane or another woman entirely? Each woman has a unique part to play regarding the windows. We also have to wonder about what happened to separate Anna from her family? We are forced to wonder where they are? Why can’t they be with her? Then we think, is there really a Jane Russell, or if it simply the name of a the star of one of her old time moives. Is she a figment of her imagination when in a drug induced state? Was anyone really murdered? Is David, her tenant a possible threat to her?  Why did Alistair Russell lose his job? Is Ethan troubled about his sexuality? Does Ethan have problems at home?

This author keeps the reader on the edge of the seat, knowing just when to switch the scene, just when to leave the reader guessing about what is coming next. In the end, Finn cleverly ties up all the loose ends, knitting them together seamlessly. There are no miraculous results, but the story works out perfectly without disappointing as so many endings often do. The road the author takes to answering all the questions and solving the mystery will keep the reader on the edge of their seat, eager to turn the pages. The reader’s attention is held constantly with the push and pull of the narrative as questions are raised that elude answers.

This is a good one. There are several aspects of the story that the reader may guess at, but the entire story will never reveal itself until the author reveals it.

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The Leavers, The Leavers, Lisa Ko, author, Emily Woo Zeller, narrator

leavers.jpgThere are many reasons why this book received so many accolades, the foremost, I believe, is because it is about current political issues. It attempts to present the plight of the immigrant, emphasis not on immigrant, or illegal immigrant, but rather on undocumented workers. I believe that the author was actually sympathetic to the “undocumented worker ignoring the illegal status. If you are progressive in your beliefs, and you believe in open borders, this book is for you. If not, it may be very disturbing for other reasons. Each of the characters seemed to blame others for their missteps. Each ignored the fact that their troubles, although real and devastating, were caused by their own choices, choices to disobey the laws of the United States. Each seemed to believe that he/she had the right to break the law.

Gou Peilin was a willful and stubborn young teenager from Fuzhou, China. She did as she pleased, defying rules and regulations. Girls were not permitted to do many of the things that boys were, and she bristled and did them anyway. She rarely thought of the consequences of her actions. She went to Beijing to work in a factory and took up with her former boyfriend, Haifeng. She was unworldly and naïve. When she found herself pregnant, she decided she did not want to tell him, although he truly wanted to marry her. Desperate for freedom and a different life, she tried to abort the baby and never informed him that she was pregnant. In China, however, she encountered a bureaucracy she could not navigate, and so she could not end her pregnancy in a timely fashion.

In desperation, she borrowed money from loan sharks and obtained false papers, bought passage to America and began what she hoped would be a new life. Her debts were enormous, in the end, upwards of $50,000 that had to be repaid. Still, she was exhilarated when she arrived in America, and she gave little thought to motherhood or her future. She was painfully naïve and unaware of the fact that at seven months along, she could not abort the child, even in the United States where abortions were more accessible. She was soon to be a working, single mother, and her life was about to become even more difficult.

Her situation grew dire as she struggled to work and raise her son in New York City. However, one day, she met Leon and they fell in love. She moved in with him, to his apartment in the Bronx, and he cared for her and her son, Deming, now a toddler. Leon’s sister Vivian had been abandoned, and she also lived there with her son Michael. Peilin, worked as a nail technician, but as time passed, now known as Polly, Peilin had dreams of a better life. Leon, however, was not legal either, and he was content to stay where he was. He would not abandon his sister, and she also refused to move.

When ICE raided the nail salon where Polly worked, she was rounded up and sent to a place called Ardsleyville, in Texas. It was a detention camp, based on the Willacy (County), detention camp in Texas. She was quickly lost in a system that was overwhelmed with illegals. No one could find her or help her. The telephone there did not work. When she was permitted one call, she did not accurately recall any phone number, so she could not reach out for help. For more than a year, she lived in terrible conditions, even solitary confinement. Although her own actions had caused her plight, she was angry with everyone else, and the horrific conditions she was forced to endure, changed her forever.

Deming, her son, was lost to her when he was adopted by a white couple, both academics, and brought up as an American, losing much of his Chinese heritage. His name was changed from Deming Guo to Daniel Wilkinson. His new parents, Kay and Peter, had their own ideas about what his future should be, but it did not match his own ideas, which, if truth be told, were all over the place. Still, his birth mom encouraged his music, and they discouraged it. His mom allowed him more freedom and they made more rules. Soon, he felt he did not fit in anywhere, not in the white world or the Chinese world, not in the United States or in China. He seemed destined to failure, as he, like his birth mother, made one foolish choice after another. Although his parents wanted a more traditional life for him, with a college degree and a stable future, he chose to drink too much, became addicted to gambling and had dreams of being a famous guitarist. He was talented, but seemed to always set himself up for failure by never adequately preparing for the task before him.

The fact that he was adopted into a different racial family seemed to weigh heavily upon him, and he didnot feel comfortable in most situations. He was also adopted as a boy of 12, so although grateful for his life and his new family, which was far different from the life of poverty he lived with his mother, both lifestyles offered different advantages to him, which he struggled to understand and appreciate.

As the decades passed, the reader was given a window into the world of the undocumented immigrant/illegal alien’s struggles in the United States. However, as they rail against the injustices that they must endure, they seem to fail to recognize their own complicity in the shaping of the situation.

I did not find myself liking the characters or their behavior. I found them self-serving and irresponsible. They made a choice to enter a country illegally and were upset when they were arrested for doing so. They contrived all sorts of ways to try and become legal, with false papers, through marriage, etc., once in the states, but often were unsuccessful. The illegality of their behavior seemed inconsequential. They came for the opportunity America offered, although in China they did not suffer terribly from deprivation. The problem was that there were few opportunities to leave the peasant class, in China, and that seemed to be the driving force behind Peilan’s often erratic behavior and dreams. She wanted to succeed, to get ahead, to accomplish something more.

I thought the book was too long. The timeline was often confusing, and the subject matter jumped from topic to topic, sometimes without fully exploring and developing the one before beginning another. When the book ended, I was surprised, since there were still many loose ends that were not tied up. Did Deming, now Daniel, ever find or meet his real biological father? Did his biological father, Haifeng, ever discover that Deming was his son? What happened to Yong, Polly’s husband, after she went to Hong Kong? Would she ever get to America to see Deming again? Which life did Daniel wind up identifying with, his Chinese or his American? Was the author for or against interracial adoption, for or against illegal immigration? Did Deming/Daniel or Peilin/Polly ever find out what they truly wanted, who they really wanted to be? Did they find what they were searching for? Did Daniel feel out of place because he was adopted into a white family? Could that white family truly understand what he needed as a young Chinese boy? Children who were adopted as infants seemed to fare better in the story. Was that a fact? Although the characters seem to take great risks, they seemed ignorant of the rules and completely naïve about the chances they were taking.

The struggles Deming felt about his parents and his responsibility toward each was troubling for him. To whom did he owe the most allegiance? Who was his true mother? Was it the mother who wanted him desperately and chose a grown boy to raise, or the mother who had never wanted to be a mother in the first place, who had been unable to find him and who stopped searching for him, eventually pretending he no longer existed?

The immigrant plight seemed to be conflated by the author with the illegal immigrant plight, and the issues were not clearly defined or developed. The characters were surprised when their foolish decisions had unpleasant consequences. It was as if they decided they could make their own rules and the laws of the country were immaterial. Should the laws of a country be defied or ignored? None of the questions I raised were ever answered.

In the end, there was one conclusion that stood out for me. Somewhere, someone in the book said, Americans were not all white. The converse is that in China, the Chinese are all Chinese. The book may actually have pointed out an interesting idea that is often not discussed. It is hard to assimilate; it is hard to overcome the stares and the inherent bias and confusion of people who see things they do not understand. We tend to oversimplify our problems in America with a one-size fits all solution.

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The Fallen, David Baldacci, author; Kyf Brewer, Orlagh Cassidy, narrators

Amos Decker is on vacation with his partner, Alex Jamison, at her sister Amber’s home in PA. They are both there to get some R & R and to celebrate the 6th birthday of Alex’s niece Zoe. Sitting outside, while talking to Zoe, Amos notices flickering lights in the house behind theirs. He runs over to check and he finds and puts out an electrical fire. In this abandoned house, he also discovers two dead bodies. Who are the dead? Why are they dead? Who killed them? In a short time, more unexplained tragedies and deaths follow.

Essentially, the story revolves around drugs, murder and a missing treasure. The opioid epidemic is taking a large percentage of the population. There is the rising possibility of an insurance scam and the distinct possibility that some desperate residents have turned to crime.  The investigation seems to also indicate a police department that has been corrupted and needs some serious cleansing. The idea of a missing fortune literally leads to a treasure hunt with tragic consequences.

In this small, once thriving town that has fallen on hard times, the residents find themselves down and out and desperate. The Baron family created this town with mines and factories and then sold it all for profit, putting the townspeople out of work with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Where did the wealth of the Baron family disappear to since it did not go to the descendants? That is a mystery which each successive generation has pondered unsuccessfully. Even though some parts of the town of Baronville are coming back, as businesses start up there and are hiring, some of the townspeople are still struggling and can’t make ends meet. Desperate people often make desperate choices.

Four generations of Barons lived and died there, some mysteriously. The first Baron, who made the fortune, had a horrible reputation as a stingy, selfish and mean man. The last is a man hated and maligned by  the town and its people because they unfairly blame him and his family for their hard luck and hard times.

The mystery kept me interested, but there were too many tangents and the dialog was often melodramatic and hackneyed. In addition, not all of the characters were credible. The book could have used some sharp editing since lots of dialogue seemed to exist only to fill space.

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Love and Ruin, Paula McLain, author, January LaVoy, narrator

I have enjoyed reading the author’s previous books, but this one left me a bit cold. I did like it, but only as a beach read, or perhaps chick lit, which I do not prefer.

This novel is billed as historic fiction, but it grows more into a romance. It is about the supposed relationship between Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn. Although much younger than he, she, an aspiring writer, is enamored completely by him, his fame and reputation. After her father dies, she goes on a trip to Spain with her grieving mother. There, in Barcelona, they encounter Hemingway at a bar. According to McLain, he engages them in conversation, and voila, they are smitten.

After she goes home to America with her mom, he gets in touch with her and encourages her to return to Spain to cover the war and to be with him. Hitler will soon march across Europe. He gives her hints on how to wangle her way there under the auspices of a publisher. She knows he is married and has met both his wife and their daughter; this knowledge does not dissuade her from crossing the sea and having an affair with him, nor did it dissuade his current second wife from taking him from his first wife.

At times, Martha seems painfully naïve, and at other times, she seems to be a woman of the world as she pulls off her charades and manipulates situations to enable her to return to Europe, to both be with Ernest and to cover the action. Although there are interesting moments like her involvement with Eleanor Roosevelt and the tidbits about the war, with she and Ernest falling into each other’s arms as bombs fell, I found it to be largely a love story about two people who felt irresistibly drawn to each other when they met. I wondered at Gellhorn’s mindset as she surely must have realized that once married and cheated, then twice married and cheated, the thrice married was not going to be the charm to bring about permanency in Ernest’s lovelife. He was still going to cheat.

***About half way through the book, I inadvertently erased it from my listening device. I have to wonder if it was an unconscious desire to discontinue the book. I did not like the way Gellhon was portrayed as a shrinking violet at times and as a sophisticated woman of interacting with the rich and famous, at others. I wondered if she was using Hemingway and hanging onto his coattails for the purpose of furthering her own career, which it inevitably did. The portrayal of Hemingway as a letch and terribly disorderly character disturbed my romantic image of him as a charming lover sought by many women.

The book felt melodramatic to me, and although I did put myself back on the wait list at the library to get the book and finish it, I am not sure that I will be motivated to do so when it comes due. I have an ebook, so perhaps I will take another look at that. At any rate, if you like chick lit, and you like this author and don’t expect too much from the book, you will like it.

***I decided to finish the book, but my conclusion is the same as before. It is not up to McLain’s other books. It is chick lit. The war bits and the history make the book more palatable, but the romance and dialogue between Hemingway and Gellhorn seem very hackneyed. The prose was not inspiring which made the novel’s authenticity questionable for me.

The idea that a serial cheater is more in love with Martha, than she is with him, seemed disingenuous. Does anyone really know the truth about that? He certainly had a lot of wives. I felt that McLain made Gellhorn too large a presence in his life and made her too large a presence, period. She seemed so immature at times, and yet her war correspondent life defied that image.

 

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Educated, Tara Westover, author; Julia Whelan, narrator

educated.jpgThe author was raised in Idaho near a beautiful mountain called Bucks Peak. There was no record of her birth, and she never attended school. This is her inspiring story. Her parents were Fundamental Mormons who brought her up to be self-sufficient and modest in dress and behavior. Her mother, Faye, was a talented herbalist and an unlicensed midwife. Her father, Gene, was a survivalist who ran a junk yard, dealt in scrap metal and took odd construction jobs, locally. He was the master of his home and believed that a woman’s place was as a homemaker and mother. All of the children became part of his crew at one point or another in their lives, when necessary. Many sustained life-threatening injuries because of a lack of judgment and/or common sense. Their father believed that G-d would guide him and them. They all fell under the spell of their father, to a greater or lesser degree. Gene believed he communicated directly with his G-d and always had the one right way, even when tragedy occurred because of his foolish decisions. He believed whatever happened was G-d’s will, and G-d would always provide and care for them. Angels would guide them, and they would not be given more to deal with than they could handle. He was sure the end of days was coming, and he prepared for it, hoarding food and burying fuel underground.

Neither of Tara’s parents seemed quite stable. They were afraid of hospitals which might poison them; they were afraid of schools which might brainwash them. They were fanatic in their beliefs, and Tara’s formative years were sheltered from the outside world. She was often subjected to abuse by one of her brothers which went unnoticed or ignored by both of her parents. Her father believed females needed to be taught how to behave properly. If she accused her brother of hurting her, he demanded proof. Often, she had no one to protect her.

When, for some odd reason, she was allowed to apply to college, never having been to public school, Tara spent hours studying for the ACT. Her home schooling had been sparse at best, but her brother encouraged her because it was the path he had followed. On her second attempt she did well enough to enter Brigham Young University. She was out of place, unworldly and dressed differently than the other student, having no prior knowledge of anything worldly beside the religious books she had read and the medicines she had made with her mom. She was adept at construction with her brothers and fathers but had no idea about something so simple as basic hygiene.

Growing up, Tara did no know what she was missing, but as she entered the world, the opportunities and education she was exposed to caused tremendous conflict within her. She began to see the difference between her world and everyone one else’s world. She began to question her lifestyle.

As Tara describes her life, set firmly in the current events of the times, it is hard to believe that she and her family could survive so many mishaps intact, without the benefit of medical care or education. It is hard to believe that life was able to fulfill her dreams. She has written her memoir clearly and succinctly as she tells the story of a young girl who was both sheltered and abused. The miracle of that young girl’s success and her ability to break out of the mold she was in and grow to the person she is now, is the highlight of the book. The book is stirring as it illustrates the miraculous possibilities one can hope for and achieve against all the odds placed in the way. Without the inner strength and insight Tara possessed, it would have been impossible.

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