Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Book Review: A Month of Sundays by Ruth White

A Month of Sundays by Ruth White

The book opens with a common ploy in middle school literature (including the top Newbery winner last year and another of the honor awards):  the protagonist, Garnet, is left by her single mother at the home of relatives she has never met before while her mother goes to Florida to find work.  While angry at her mother for abandoning her, Garnet finds she enjoys getting to know her aunt--the sister of the father who ran off with another woman before Garnet was born-and the grandfather she had never seen before.

Her aunt, June, welcomes Garnet's arrival, not only because it brings another female into the house (Aunt June has two sons), but because Garnet agrees to accompany her as June visits a different church every Sunday, searching for God.  Garnet, meanwhile, who had grown up with only her mother in her life, discovers it's not so bad to have family.  Add into the mix the handsome young son of an evangelical preacher at one of the churches they visit, and suddenly Garnet is no longer sure she wants to return to the solitary life she has known with her mother.

As with most of these books, family secrets are eventually revealed and the protagonist learns a lot about family and love and relationships and herself.  However, this book also deftly includes some questions about religion and faith into the plot.  And just when it seems like all the loose ends are going to be tied up in a rather saccharin way, an unexpected twist plunges the novel into deeper and darker territory.

In the end, many questions are answered, but other ones are raised.  Just as in life, the conclusion mixes the good with the bad, the mysteries that have been explained with other ones that will never be resolved.  So I think this is really an excellent book for adolescent readers, who are beginning to grapple with the questions, contractions, and abiguities in their own lives.  It wasn't what I expected when I picked it up, but I enjoyed it a lot and definitely recommend it.

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