Monday, September 3, 2007
Stealing Henry by Carolyn MacCullough
We all have to face the consequences of our actions – that’s a basic fact of life. What really hurts is when others are damaged because of the choices we make.
For the first nine years of her life, Savannah has known freedom. Crisscrossing the United States at her mother’s whim, she has loved the freedom of being a nomad. Although money is often tight (and there’s not always food to be had), she is happy. But eventually her mother grows unhappy and when their car breaks down in New Jersey, they go no farther. Instead, Alice meets and marries Jack and they have a son, Henry.
Jack and Savannah do not get along. He’s an abusive alcoholic and her mother tolerates it, telling them to go to a neighbor’s house when things get bad. One night when her mom is at work, Savannah snaps, hitting her stepfather on top of the head with the frying pan and escaping with her little brother Henry.
As Savannah’s story unfolds, we also get to know about Alice’s life through a series of flashbacks. Alice falls in love with a black man but gets pregnant with a police officer’s child. Unable to accept the fact that the man she is in love with has left town, she goes in search for him and ends up traveling all over the country. Her decision to leave her home in Maine irrevocably affects both her and the child she is carrying.
What’s interesting about this book is that it is full of bad decisions, made by perhaps every important character except Henry, who is just a little boy not allowed to make choices. I'm not sure, however, how realistic all of the choices are. Savannah’s choice to take Henry and run doesn’t ring true to me. Why doesn’t she find help at school or through Social Services? She has had one run-in with Social Services but it didn't seem so bad that she wouldn't feel like she could go to them. April’s decision at the end (which I can’t talk about without spoiling the book) also disturbed me. Although I have seen parents act this irresponsibly, it was hard for me to swallow.
The other thing that bothered me about the book was the cursing. Now I promise that I am no prude, but the beginning of this book had so many swear words that I found them distracting, which is my personal measure of whether or not cursing is appropriate in a book.
Today it’s off to read The Outsiders, another reread to prepare for Battle of the Books. If I manage to finish it quickly, then I’ll reward myself with of my new purchases.