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In this YA novel, a teenage girl struggles to find her place after the tragic death of her brother.

Karla Rosegaard is a hardworking, outdoorsy eighth-grader who enjoys living on her father’s ranch in rural Montana and tending to the animals. She can ride a horse and skin a rabbit and looks forward to her annual family antelope-hunting trip. Starting a new school year, however, is particularly difficult for her now, as her popular older brother, Sunny, recently died in a car accident, and her mother has been living in a psychiatric treatment facility ever since. Karla’s father decides it would be good for his daughter to have a woman around the house, so he invites his old elementary school teacher, Sister Marianpaula, to live with them for a month while she writes a book about her life. Karla is concerned, though, about Marianpaula’s seemingly scattered thoughts, her delusions of grandeur, and her tendency to speak in several distinctly different voices. After Karla’s school counselor notes that her houseguest is likely suffering from psychosis (and possibly not taking her medication), Karla sympathizes and decides to help her with her memoir. Marianpaula’s presence in the household brings about poignant conversations between Karla and her dad, and the young girl soon learns the truth about her mother. Elliott (Blood Fiction, 2017, etc.) depicts her story’s majestic, bucolic setting through the use of lush imagery and sentimental descriptions of day-to-day ranch duties (“She curried [her horse’s] rich chestnut coat till her arms ached, till his coat reflected the late September sun like a copper penny”). She has a particularly strong handle on the sporadic voices of Marianpaula, a complicated character who jumps between several different personas but still comes across as one multifaceted being. Readers will begin to understand her more deeply as Karla records the woman’s tangential storytelling and tries to draw connections between her countless life experiences. Karla is a strong female lead, and her independence—and her dedication to her goal of a successful hunt using her mother’s rifle—is refreshing.

A moving tale of love and acceptance recommended for readers who enjoy the great outdoors and complex character relationships.

Page count: 157pp
Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2017


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