A courageous survivor of sexual abuse, Lesley Holloway has always cooperated with social services. That is, until they take her newborn daughter away from her and she has to battle to win her back.
After years of being dragged into the hall closet to be raped by her own father, Lesley runs away. From that moment, she is thrust into the world of child protective services, a world filled with tremendously helpful individuals but also riddled with the very bureaucracy that will rip away Lesley’s hard-won independence again and again. Her case worker, Francesca, tirelessly works to place Lesley in safe homes, although the best she can offer is a hostel populated by skeevy men. Essentially rejected by her mother for bringing shame upon the family, Lesley finds the courage to work at a diner and attend a posh school, where she is reminded daily of her status as a scholarship student. Her English teacher, Mrs. Kremsky, or Miss, becomes Lesley’s guardian angel. Driving her to and from school, offering morning lattes, Miss gradually gains Lesley’s trust. Lesley, though, has farther to fall, as she begins cutting herself to release her emotional pain. The day after her father’s trial, she accidentally cuts too deeply and winds up in a rehab center, arranged by Miss with the assistance of Francesca. Undergoing therapy, Lesley meets her first love, Clare, yet their sweet romance is doomed by Clare’s religiously fanatic parents and the center’s rules. Soon, Lesley is tossed out. With the help of Miss and her family, Lesley slowly claws her way out of the hellhole of PTSD. When Lesley finds herself pregnant, she naively reveals her past troubles to her midwife, unwittingly unleashing her own hell.
With its deft plotting, rich characterization and often hilariously poignant dialogue, Crowell’s (Letting the Body Lead, 2002, etc.) latest is a gem.