A morality-themed novel focuses on a young girl’s harrowing experiences.
Cillo (Merry Friggin’ Christmas, 2018, etc.) presents 17-year-old Eulalia “Lali” Russo. To say that Lali is a devout Roman Catholic would be an understatement. Lali, in addition to attending a Catholic school, goes to weekday Mass, prays for people outside the local abortion clinic, and helps out at a home for unwed mothers. She even states quite firmly that she would be willing to die for her beliefs. Of course, she doesn’t often get to prove such a conviction, living as she does in the tranquil town of Santa Ines, California. Should trouble erupt, she feels protected by her policeman father, Robert. He is a stern man who is capable of just about anything but cooking a decent breakfast. Unfortunately, drugs are altering the face of Santa Ines. Due to events that begin with Lali’s acquaintance with a small-time dealer, her life quickly spirals into chaos. Lali is raped, beaten, and thrown off a cliff. To make matters more complicated, while Lali is in a coma, it is discovered that she is pregnant. Did Lali attempt suicide because she was sleeping around? Is there more to this sweet girl than meets the eye? While other characters try to figure things out, readers already know what happened. The crime is described as it occurs. Nevertheless, Cillo smoothly introduces new, intriguing events. Although Lali may not contain any further depth beyond that of a young angel (she even dreams about Jesus), the lives of those around her keep evolving in captivating ways. There is even room for humor. When a criminal with a ninth grade education (who doesn’t ever wear a seat belt) references Shakespeare, his underling is comically dumbfounded. Overall, the main events may sometimes lack suspense yet other aspects of the story still manage to skillfully bend in surprising directions.
While it misses some opportunities for greater complexity, this religious thriller ventures to unexpected places.