This second link is for my writing friends. It’s a great blog post on character development. Enjoy! http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/ten-character-development-tips/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+WritingAndIllustrating+%28Writing+and+Illustrating%29
I know I’ve been posting less than usual this year, but I hope to get back to normal one of these days. I’m happy to report my husband has regained his health and the stress of his illness is gone. Yes, you can beat cancer. YAY! That said, I am going to a very important writer’s workshop next month and am under the gun to finish up some materials quickly to be ready for that, so that’s taking a lot of time. BUT, I really want to get this post up while it’s fresh in my mind. So here goes.
Now and then, I read a book that simply captures my heart. This is one. I read a review of it somewhere – wish I could remember where – and knew I wanted to read it. I corresponded with the author and suggested she have a copy sent to the Sacramento Book Review and I would try to claim it. That all worked out and, thanks to some baseball practices my grandkids had, I was able to carve out some good reading time while they worked on their skills – time I couldn’t have had if I’d been home with my research staring me in the face.
One for the Murphys is the debut novel of Lynda Mullaly Hunt, and what a debut it is! It’s categorized as a middle-grade book, but will likely become popular not only with middle-grade kids (girls more than boys, but I think boys will like it, too), but with teens and adults who appreciate great characters and excellent story-telling.
I do not suffer fools gladly, so when I find characters who are bright, clever, and funny, I am engaged. Carley Connor has all those characteristics and a wicked sarcastic edge that is icing on the cake. She is a 12-year-old girl who hasn’t had much good in her life. Most recently, she finds herself in the same hospital as her mother, both having suffered terrible beatings at the hands of Carley’s new stepfather, Dennis. The difference, we find out, is Carley has a memory that when she tried to escape from him, her mother grabbed her ankle and held her for Dennis. Wow. How bad can things get?
Carley is taken from the hospital to a foster home, a family with three young boys. Of course she believes she will simply be used as a live-in babysitter. What she finds is a woman who loves her three boys unconditionally, has a warm and loving home, and opens herself to Carley. Carley doesn’t quite know what to make of it. “I don’t belong here. I begin to think that a foster mother who smokes cigars and makes me sleep in the basement would be a relief.” But she finds herself liking the younger boys and opening herself up a bit to this place and family, keeping her defenses handy, just in case.
School is another issue. She has no friends and at first it doesn’t seem there’s much of a chance she will make any. When she is assigned to do a project with a partner – someone she can’t stand, of course – she discovers she might just have a friend after all and maybe life is getting good. But there are still trust issues and without trust, friendships can disintegrate.
|Lynda Mullaly Hunt|
The real core of the story though is Carley’s relationship with her foster mother, Mrs. Murphy, who seems to have a window into Carley’s very soul and ways to reach in and help her find herself and know herself.
Most of the time, it wasn’t like my mother told me I was anything—good or bad. But when Mrs. Murphy tells me I’m smart, I am. When she tells me I’m funny, I am. When she tells me how thoughtful I am, I become that way. I swear, if she told me I was a duck, I’d be checking in my high-tops for webbed feet.
The family grows on Carley and she grows on them. She even makes friends with the oldest of the three boys when she works with him on his basketball skills. She hasn’t had good experiences with men, but learns to trust Mr. Murphy, ultimately becoming close to him as well. But the only thing certain about foster care is that it’s so uncertain. It’s all turned out pretty well and Carley seems content and happy when she is faced with a most difficult decision.
I remember how my mom used to say we were the same. That the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I think, now, that although the apple can come from the tree that it can land on the ground and roll down a hill and end up in a totally different place.
This is a lovely novel, one that will capture you and stay with you. The biggest disappointment is that it ended. I found myself so engaged by the characters and the terrific writing and story that I simply wanted to go on reading. (Do I hear “Sequel?”)
I love this book so much I have decided I want to share it with one of you. If you leave a comment by midnight April 1st (no fooling!), I will be doing a drawing (honest granddaughter Gracie will actually choose the winner) from the names of those who comment, and I’ll send my very own gently-read advanced reader copy of One for the Murphys off to one of you (U.S. only). It won't be out until May, so this is your only way to get it NOW! So write something in the comment section and try your luck. You won’t be disappointed.
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