Wednesday, November 25, 2020

One for the Murphys - Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Summary: Twelve-year-old Carley Connors can take a lot.  Growing up in Law Vegas with her fun-loving mother, she's learned to be tough.  But she never expected a betrayal that would land her in foster care. When she's placed with the Murphys, a lively family with three boys, she's blindsided.  Mrs. Murphy makes her feel seen and heard for the first time.  Then, just when she starts to believe she could truly be one of the Murphys, news from her mother shakes her world.

Lynda Mullaly Hunt's moving story will stay with readers long after they finish it.  (Summary from back of book - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  Carley Connors lands in the foster care system after a violent altercation with her stepfather sends both she and her mother to the hospital.  Once she is released, Carley goes to live with the Murphys, a family that seems too good to be true, which makes her guarded and suspicious.  Will she ever really belong?

One for the Murphys has fairly short chapters (just a few pages each) and simple, clean writing, making for an easy read.  That having been said, this book wasn't really an easy read at all..  I'm not overly familiar with the foster care system, but I have a good friend who has adopted several children after fostering and have often heard her speak of the emotional toll that fostering can take on both foster child and foster parent.   Carley's time in foster care triggers all sorts of complex issues and just when she is feeling like she might have a handle on things, life throws another curveball her way.  In this way, the book felt authentic and I didn't see the curveball coming either.

One for the Murphys is a good book (I promise) but make sure you read it on a day when you can handle the message.  I felt Carley's personal insecurities and impulsive outbursts, her trust issues and mood swings. I was right there for her feelings of guilt, doubt, divided loyalties, and acts of self-sabotage.  As a mother, it was hard to take and left me with a bone-deep ache for all the kiddos really live this story -- who feel unwanted, unloved, and abandoned.  I was already having a crap day when I sat down to finish the book; and was not even remotely emotionally prepared for how it would end, which meant I pretty much ugly cried my way through the last few chapters.  It wasn't pretty.

Short of reading other reviews (which I try not to do before writing my own), I have no way of knowing whether this book would be cathartic and helpful for someone familiar with the foster care system, or traumatic and triggering.  My guess is that it could be a little bit of both, so parents might want to pre-read it if they are concerned how this book might fly with their child. It won't take long.  For those who are less familiar with the foster care system, this book will certainly help them gain a sense of perspective and empathy.  It also serves as an important reminder that everyone has issues and that we can't always tell what a person is going through if we do not take the time to get to know them.  

Over the course of the book, Carley comes to some life-changing realizations about herself, her mother, her foster family, and her future.  So, although the book is a hard read, the ultimate take away is worth it.  Just read it on a good day with a box of tissues handy.

A Personal Note: The one part of the story that really set my teeth on edge is when Carley is callously interrogated by a police officer about her abuse.  My husband spent 11+ years as a child abuse investigator and there is no way that a police officer properly trained in child forensic interviewing would ever speak to a victim that way, especially a child.  At least, it would go against all current training to do so.  I understand why it was played that way in the story, but also feel that it might make a child reading the story afraid to speak to the police about their abuse, which is why I feel the need to mention it here.

My Rating: 4 Stars.

For the Sensitive Reader: A few OMG's. Some discussion of abuse, neglect, and the foster care system.

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