A mid-century family road trip becomes a journey into faith.
Elvira’s sister Jessie is born at home in a difficult delivery, several months after their alcoholic but loving father apparently perished in the sinking of his World War II troop ship. As Jessie grows, she becomes decidedly strange, not speaking until after her fourth birthday, when the first word she utters is “Damnation!” Jessie seems to have an unusual connection to psychic forces, able to read some people’s minds and sometimes see into the future—but not apparently at will. Their cantankerous, unhappy mother packs up the family, and they hit the road with an itinerant preacher, bound for California. The reason for their trip is not obvious at first, but Elvira gradually comes to believe that her father may not be dead and that Jessie’s vision of him is guiding their mother. Under the preacher’s kindly ministrations, Elvira slowly develops belief in a benevolent God, and although she remains conflicted about what His role ought to be in her life, she accepts that Jessie’s visions are providing much-needed guidance. While Christian beliefs flavor this effort, they never overpower the narrative but are instead organic to it.
Given the generally unloving relationship Elvira has with her mother, the feel-good ending seems too pat, but the supernatural element will extend appeal to a broader audience. (Christian/supernatural fiction. 10 & up)