Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Same Sky

The Same SkyThe Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Same Sky is the story of Carla, a young girl living in the slums of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and Alice, a childless woman who co-owns a BBQ restaurant with her husband in Austin, Texas. Carla's mother paid a coyote to smuggle her into the US when Carla was about seven years old and her younger brothers were babies. She's been sending a little money back to Honduras ever since, to help support Carla, the boys, and Carla's grandmother, and as soon as she could afford it, she paid a coyote to bring one of the boys to her in Austin, Texas. By the time Carla is twelve, life in the slums has become too difficult, and Carla realizes she must make the brutal journey north to America if she's to have any hope of saving her little brother, Junior. The immigrant experience is a waking nightmare, and only faith keeps Carla going.

Alice and her husband, Jake, have a thriving business, but their home life has been shattered by an adoption that fell through one night after they brought home a newborn baby boy. After being unable to conceive, they tried surrogacy and then adoption, and the latest disappointment drives a wedge in their close relationship as they struggle to grieve in totally separate ways.

The story is told in alternating chapters, and Carla's chapters held my attention a little bit better than Alice's, although both were gut-wrenching in their own ways. I just felt like Alice was a tiny bit obnoxious and unprepared to be a mother (at least based on the awkward and inept way she went about being a "Big Sister" to a troubled teen at a troubled local high school). I wanted to shake some sense into her sometimes, whereas with Carla, I longed to scoop her into my arms and shield her from any more harm.  Their stories don't intersect until the very end, and not quite in the way I had predicted.  The Same Sky is both wonderful and heartbreaking.  Keep the Kleenex box handy, although sometimes I was too stunned to even cry.  Carla's story was especially haunting, and I frequently wished I could change the events in her life--just rewind a bit, and it would all be OK again, right?

I received a free ebook copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review, although in the end, in order to get the book read, I listened to a downloadable audiobook version I checked out from my library.

I'm not sure whether this was intended to be "Christian fiction," but Carla's faith plays a huge role in her story, and faith (or the lack thereof) plays a part in Alice's story as well.

For readers' advisors: character doorway is primary, setting secondary. There is some bad language, drug use by minors, rape, and some references to sex.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Jo Frost's Toddler Rules: Your 5-Step Guide to Shaping Proper Behavior

Jo Frost's Toddler Rules: Your 5-Step Guide to Shaping Proper BehaviorJo Frost's Toddler Rules: Your 5-Step Guide to Shaping Proper Behavior by Jo Frost
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have always liked watching Jo Frost as "Supernanny" on TV because she works miracles with common sense and love. Her written advice is more of the same: practical, effective, logical, and based on the stages of child development. Fabulous! I especially appreciated that she gave real-world scenario examples of all her techniques, tips, and troubleshooting FAQs. That really helped me connect the theory to what it would look like in practice and when to use which method. There is nothing revolutionary or mind-blowing about the lessons in this book, but that's the point. Raising toddlers isn't rocket science, it's just structure, consistency, and discipline (in the best sense of the word), with a whole lot of patience and love. The main takeaway for me is something I usually do instinctively and will now do consciously: S.O.S. = Step back, Observe, Step in. Thanks, Supernanny!

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