As an avid reader, I get excited about the great number of books out there to read, either for entertainment, education, inspiration or with some books, all three. The quantity available in print, audio, and e-books reminds me of the vast amount of life in the oceans, so I call these book reviews “Diving Into A Sea of Books”. As with diving into an ocean looking for interesting objects, diving into books means you come across mixed results: over here, a book you don’t bother to finish, over there, a “treasure”–one that you like so much you can’t wait to reread it, and over there, a book you read and think, “Meh”.
Praying at the Sweetwater Motel by April Young Fritz, a novel for pre-teens, is told from the point-of-view of twelve-year-old Sarah Jane Otis. Sarah Jane’s family breaks apart after her father physically abuses her mother and then, for the first time, hits Sarah Jane as well. Sarah Jane’s mother flees and takes Sarah Jane and her younger sister with her.
Sarah Jane struggles with leaving her comfortable room, her friends and family, classmates, and the horse she loved. She also must cope with crowded quarters with her mother and little sister, and the uncertainty of where they will actually end up, and what they will do when they get there.
Through the twists and turns, Sarah Jane learns about hard decisions grown-ups must make. She sees how a person’s wrong choices affect others. She learns that God does care about us, even though circumstances seem to say otherwise. She learns that God tells us things in small, subtle, but important ways, and that He does answer in response to prayer, but often we miss recognizing His answer when we’re deep in our own anger, self-pity, bitterness or wrong expectations of what His answer will look like.
I believe the novel presents an accurate portrayal of a family caught in a web of rage, pride, isolation, alcoholism and physical abuse, as well as the hardships a woman faces when she finally gets the courage to leave for good (Sarah Jane’s mother left her husband different times, but always went back). The novel shows Sarah Jane’s confusion and her desire for family reconciliation. The book also touches on bullying among the students in Sarah Jane’s new school.
In the end, Sarah Jane realizes that although she’s left some people and experiences that were good behind, all is not lost. Good–in the form of new friends, unexpected good times, and her growing maturity–is around her.
Comment: The book read like a movie; I could “see” everything in my mind. It shows that good and bad are intertwined in a person’s life. The author wisely avoids an unrealistic “happily-ever-after” ending and gives an optimistic one instead. In my opinion, this is a valuable read for a young person dealing with big issues.
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