Monday, March 05, 2012

Books: What We Keep . . .

What We Keep Is Not Always What Will Stay
By Amanda Cockrell
Copyright 2011
257 pages

This book in December was named to the Boston Globe's list of best children's books! It also was named a best book of 2011 on this list. The book also receives some good reviews over at Goodreads.

These are honors well deserved. I loved this book.

Angie is a 15-year-old girl who lives in a Hollywoodish town in California. Her mother has recently left her stepfather, Ben, whom Angie loves as her father. The young woman has chosen to live with her stepfather in hopes her mother will return to him. She wants her parents to be together.

Even though Lily is Angie's close friend, Angie doesn't feel comfortable talking to her or anyone else about certain things. So she visits a statue of Saint Felix in the basement of the church. She pours her heart out to the statue. One day, the statue talks back.

Angie is startled but she accepts the fellow who used to be a statue. She can't decide if he is the statue come to life, or a homeless person, since the statue is missing. She continues to visit him, though she is not quite as vocal as she used to be. After all, it is one thing to talk to a statue that doesn't say anything in return; quite another to offer confidences to a living man.

She also makes a new friend, Jesse. Jesse, at age 19, has been to war. He has returned from Afghanistan, minus a leg, and is now back in school trying to finish his degree.

The young girl is determined to fix the many things she has found broken - her parents' marriage, Felix's odd state, and Jesse's moodiness. But all of these things are too much for a young girl to handle.

The book has many life lessons in it, and it has a definite point of view - anti-war, for one thing, that I loved. It also deals with relationships - abusive and otherwise - and trust issues.

The story is told in the first person, and I found the voice quite believable. The details of the town were vivid and the characterizations rang true. I enjoyed every word.

I will say I think the title is a bit of a mouthful, but it works in the end.

Young girls - maybe as young as 10 but perhaps a bit older - will find this to be a terrific story, one with a lesson about who you can and cannot save (and how to figure out the difference). I plan to buy a second copy and give it to my 10-year-old niece, but perhaps not until Christmas 2012, when she will be almost 11.

This is an easy read; I finished it in two nights and one sitting would have been satisfactory if I had had the time.

Full disclosure:

The author, Amanda Cockrell, is a professor at Hollins University. She is not just any professor; she's MY professor and I consider her to be a friend. She most recently was my thesis advisor. I have had classes with her off and on since 2002.

I purchased the book when Amanda held a book signing back in October. However, since we were working together on my thesis, I decided to hold off reading it until my project was finished. Once I completed that and the grade was on my transcript, I felt it would be fine to read the book and do a review of it. I like to avoid conflicts like that when I can.

Many thanks to Amanda for writing such a great book!

5 stars

1 comment:

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