In this YA novel, a teenage girl struggles to find her place after the tragic death of her brother.
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
dedication to her goal of a successful hunt using her mother’s rifle—is refreshing.
tale of love and acceptance recommended for readers who enjoy the great
outdoors and complex character relationships.