My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Goodreads: There are some things you can’t leave behind…
A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.
Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.
My thoughts: This is a book I will remember not only for the story but also for the ease of the story that unfolds. The author does not heap the reader with all of the baggage details that both girls carry. Instead, the story is told through the eyes of Karry, the older sister of Jenessa, and the one responsible for their safety and well being. It begins the last day of their life in the Tennessee woods where they have been living in a camper with no power, heat, or electricity. Social Services has finally tracked them down after receiving a letter from their mother. With Mrs. Haskell, is Karry's father.
The book is about the unwinding of tales that Karry's mother told and the tales Karry told herself. It is a journey of releasing herself of the burden of being the sole responsible one and unburdening of secrets she kept. The book is also about reintroduction into society when she feels so ill prepared. How she builds bridges and lets people into her heart, beginning for the sake of Jenessa and later for herself.
The characters that are introduced provide a perfect example of dealing with children of trauma. A stepmother named Melissa and Karey's father allow both girls to unfold at their own rate. They love them for who they are right now rather than concentrating on their deficits or anger at their mother. Karry does process her anger at her mother as she realizes and accepts where the responsibility lies.
Although the protagonist is a teen, this is not a teen book. Karry does very little, if any, teenagery, existential wandering. That said, the book is vague in most of what the girls endured. Most but not all, although when told, the experience is told easily, like a person who has had years of experience compartmentalizing in order to survive. I'd recommend it to any person wanting to be a foster parent.