Books by Rita Murphy

BIRD by Rita Murphy
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 14, 2008

Bird-light Miranda has been lifted by the wind only to be grounded near the beach of Bourne Manor, where she is found by the owner's hounds. The Manor's owner, widow Wysteria, takes the child in and binds her to the earth with steel-plated boots. Miranda mends fishnets and the two eke out an existence together in the spooky manse until Wysteria takes sick. To save her, Miranda leaves the house to find a doctor in town. There she hears the rumors of the Captain, Wysteria's dead husband, and that the house is haunted—more than haunted, really: It seems the house can control its residents' thoughts. Farley, a boy Miranda has befriended, determines to help free her from the Manor's insidious grasp. Echoes of Hawthorne's House of Seven Gables run through this tale, which abounds with literary allusions. While even precocious child readers may not hear them, they will adore the setting, Miranda's soaring, literary voice and the dreamy fantasy-meets-reality plot. (Fantasy. 10-13)Read full book review >
LOOKING FOR LUCY BUICK by Rita Murphy
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Nov. 8, 2005

Lucretia Buick's last name is bestowed on her when she turns up as a foundling in the backseat of a 1968 Buick Skylark convertible Uncle Rocco wins in a championship poker game. While her three uncles—sons of Aunt Mim—are shady, controlling and unlikable fellows, it is the five Sandoni sisters who adopt and care for Lucy as best they can in their small New York town. Eccentric Aunt Rhodi in particular keeps Lucy's spirit and heart alive. A few months after Aunt Rhodi, the last of the aunts, dies, Lucy is 18 and chance leaves her outside the family hosiery factory the afternoon it goes up in flames. She disappears by hopping a train going west, hoping to find by signs and luck the family she thinks of as the Buicks—her own people. Instead Lucy finds herself in the tiny town of Gardenia, Iowa, surrounded by good people who seem to have been waiting to love her. Aunt Rhodi—and the other aunts—appear from time to time to offer advice and somewhat random consolations from beyond the grave, until Lucy no longer needs them to point out what she has found. Sweet and light as a feather but with the substantial charm of music or a summer's day. (Fiction. 12-15)Read full book review >
HARMONY by Rita Murphy
FICTION
Released: Oct. 8, 2002

Harmony McClean's life is like the Tennessee mountain cabin she lives in: "never entirely finished and always in the process of becoming something else." She can lie down in her backyard and touch Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia all at the same time, but readers soon realize her reach extends even further. She has powers that connect her to the trees, the stars, and the universe. Harmony, in fact, arrived in the Hamlin Mountains when a falling star landed in Felix McGuillicuddy's wife's chicken coop. Felix found Harmony, "naked and crowing louder than a rooster," next to the star. Now 14, Harmony realizes her powers. She can make things happen just by thinking about them: set the table or start a fire in the fireplace. She sets off smoke detectors, blows up microwaves, and short-circuits vacuum cleaners just by walking by. But how should she handle such powers—hide them and fit into her community or embrace them and risk being different? Murphy (Black Angels, 2001, etc.) has created a magical story written with a light, lyrical touch, always rooted in the particulars of the mountain setting. Readers will accept the premise and care about Harmony because she seems real, as real and mysterious as the stars. By the end, she finds harmony and accepts herself and her gifts, using them to help a dying woman, protect her forest from a lumber company, and release a coyote from a steel trap. Harmony has come to realize the importance of having the courage "to live the life you were born to live." (Fiction. 11+)Read full book review >
BLACK ANGELS by Rita Murphy
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2001

Narrator 11-year-old Celli lives in segregated Macon, Georgia, with her mother and brother; her father left years earlier. Celli also considers Sophie, an outspoken African-American woman who cooks and cleans for them, to be a part of the family. In 1961, when Celli's mother leaves for a month, Sophie takes care of the children. One evening she takes Celli to a church meeting where the congregation is planning a visit from the Freedom Riders. The resulting civil-rights demonstration lands Sophie in jail and pushes Celli into helping a man pursued by the Klan. Celli also meets, for the first time, her Ohio grandmother who has come with the Freedom Riders. The girl is shocked that her grandmother is African-American and even more shocked to learn that this means her light-skinned father was, too. Celli's rather too-quick adjustment to these surprises can only be explained by her relationship with Sophie and for all its drama, the story falls short of engaging the reader emotionally. The well-intentioned exploration of civil rights and racial identity tends to override the development of the characters, who remain largely one-dimensional, while strained elements of magical realism reinforce the reader's distance. Celli opens her story by describing angels that only she sees, as "Three naked black girls with creamy white wings, throwing stones on my hopscotch board." The angels appear most days, eating angel food, picking blossoms, and, near the end, playing poker on the garage roof. Murphy's strong lyrical writing was used to far better effect in her first novel, Night Flying (2000), where the magical realism was well integrated into the story. Here she has tackled tough issues in too-little depth, with symbolism that obscures rather than enlightens. Still, the story itself is a good one and has its own rewards. (Fiction. 10-13)Read full book review >
NIGHT FLYING by Rita Murphy
ADVENTURE
Released: Nov. 1, 2000

The Hansen women have a secret: generations of them have had the power to fly. It is both a gift and a burden, for there is a dark side to this magical ability. For reasons of self-preservationn, long-held rules and taboos, which are enforced by a cold, unbending Grandmother, control this ability. In adherence to family tradition, 16-year-old Georgia will be initiated in a ceremony for her first solo flight. But the strictly regulated family dynamic is interrupted by the appearance of Georgia's dangerous, rule-breaking Aunt Carmen the week before the initiation. Carmen has secrets of her own that upset the equilibrium, set her sisters free of their domineering mother, and cause Georgia not only to know the secret of her own birth but also to make her first solo flight independently and in the daylight—which is strictly forbidden. In this unusual coming-of-age story, Georgia negotiates the universal tension between safety, offered by Grandmother's control, and freedom and independence, offered by Carmen. She also faces the added complexity of whether to tell the truth about her solo and face banishment or to lie and surrender control of her own life. This first novel (winner of the Delacorte Prize) is metaphorical in every way, yet the oft-used symbol of flight is given an original emphasis. The writing is full of apt and innovative images (e.g., Beulah the old Volvo wagon that is like a Southern woman, "She just has weight and composure"). The beauty and the danger of flight are skillfully imagined. While some readers may reprove the almost misandristic absence of men, for readers who suspend disbelief, the richly developed, seclusive fantasy world of the Hansen women with its own history, rituals, and mores will fascinate, and the conclusion, with the promise of Georgia's safe landing, will satisfy. (Fiction. 10-14)Read full book review >