Showing posts with label belonging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label belonging. Show all posts

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Brave Girl, Quiet Girl - Book Review

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Every extraordinary book has that moment when you fall irrevocably in love with it.  For me, that oh-I-just-love-this-so-much moment in Catherine Ryan Hyde's Brave Girl, Quiet Girl came from the mouth of a babe.  You can pretty much count on a two-year-old to get right to the heart of the matter and Etta doesn't disappoint.  When she whispers brave girl, quiet girl to her trembling rescuer, the story is made... the book's soul is revealed... and this reader was completely smitten.

Because you can follow links to the official book synopsis, I won't spend time rehashing what you can discover for yourself.  Let me just give you the broad strokes and then cut to the chase.  After all, that's what I want in a review—not so much facts, as the alchemy of what makes for an unforgettable reading experience.

I have already mentioned Etta.  If you ask me, this amazing toddler is the pivot upon which everything turns.  As the story begins, Etta is ripped away from her family in the course of a carjacking.  Her mother, Brooke, is desperate to find her baby, but the odds are stacked against a safe return.

And then there is Molly, a cast-off teen, living on the mean streets of L.A. after being discarded by her rigid, unaccepting parents.  It is so perfectly fitting that a child who has lost all sense of worthiness is the one who comes to find, and protect, Etta after the jackers abandon her in the dark of night.

Despite the bleak circumstances that embrace both Brooke and Molly (or, I'm now thinking it is because of that bleakness), the broken pieces of two psyches will discover a way to fit together in perfectly imperfect ways to form a new sense of acceptance, belonging, and family.

Brave Girl, Quiet Girl is ultimately the story of how the light gets in through the broken places to illuminate the beauty that was formerly hidden within the bleakness.  I've come to the recognition, after reading a majority of Catherine Ryan Hyde's books, that one of her many gifts as a writer is something I can only compare to the Japanese aesthetic known as wabi-sabi.

The thing I find so appealing about this aesthetic, especially as it applies to CRH's consistent approach to bringing together beautifully flawed people, is how the imperfection causes me to love them more.  Just as the Japanese do, the author highlights rather than hides the flaws.  In her skillful hands, the flaw becomes the work of art.

Just as wabi-sabi features that which is authentic, and acknowledges that nothing is finished, so too do we see that in this book's work-in-progress characters.  We experience them in their raw state of becoming.  It makes them entirely relatable and, in my case, made me feel great empathy for their plights.

Finally, I was deeply struck by how the homeless in this story viewed those who sought to help them.  It made me reflect on my current relationships with those who are without a home.  Why is help offered?  When is help not at all helpful?  What is the best way to reach out to those in need?  How do they define the need?

Those who appreciate the humanity at the center of Catherine Ryan Hyde's writing are sure to find much to love, just as I did, in Brave Girl, Quiet Girl.  I knew I could count on coming away from this read with a feeling of greater compassion—not only toward Brooke, and Molly, and Bodhi—but also for my own flawed self.

Brave Girl, Quiet Girl releases on May 19, 2020.  I received an Advanced Reader Copy (e-galley) from NetGalley in return for my honest review.  I highly recommend this book and encourage you to pick up your copy today.











Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Language of Flowers - Book Review

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To read The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, is to reflect on how the bouquet of each of our lives is crafted flower by flower.  As we enter Victoria's story, none of us would want the bouquet she sees as the definition of who she has become: thistle, peony, and basil (flowers that represent a deep mistrust of people, anger, and hate).  Well before the end of this book, I suspect, like me, that you will be urging Victoria, in your heart of hearts, to pick a few white violets and daffodils.

Who is Victoria, this self-described thistle?  She is a child who has spent her entire life in the foster care system.  Victoria's self-image has been shaped by the one constant she has known throughout her childhood: rejection.  After being bounced from 32 different placements, Victoria is finally aging out of the system.  Having turned 18, she is eligible for emancipation.  While that freedom is welcomed, it comes with a whole new set of challenges.  Victoria has no money, no family, and no place to call home.  What she has, though, is an extraordinary gift for changing lives.  It will be the discovery of this gift that offers up new hope for a girl who has always been too afraid to hope, or trust, or love.

We learn early on that Victoria had one significant relationship at the age of nine.  Her foster parent, Elizabeth, taught Victoria how the meanings of flowers were an important form of communication during the Victorian Era.  This language of flowers is something intuitive for Victoria.  Plants, flowers, and growing things become her solace, her sanctuary, and the very life of life.

As Victoria seeks to find her way in a world that frightens her, individuals from her past reappear.  One offers the chance for true love.  The other offers the chance for redemption.  Both can give Victoria something she has always wanted more than anything: a family and a sense of belonging.  Will Victoria be able to move past the shame and feelings of unworthiness that stand in the way of making her way home?  You will want to read The Language of Flowers to discover the answer to that question.

Before we go, were you curious, in the introduction to this review, about why we might want Victoria to pick some white violets and daffodils to replace the thistles, peonies, and basil in her bouquet?  Those white violets represent the sentiment "let's take a chance on happiness" and daffodils are symbolic of new beginnings.  When it comes right down to it, isn't that what we wish for everyone who has waited a lifetime to grow into something beautiful?







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Review This is Dedicated to the Memory of Our Beloved Friend and Fellow Contributor
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