The title characters in Me & Emma are very nearly photographic opposites--8-year-old Carrie, the raven-haired narrator, is timid and introverted, while her little sister Emma is a tow-headed powerhouse with no sense of fear. The girls live in a terrible situation: they depend on an unstable mother that has never recovered from her husbands murder, their stepfather beats them regularly, and they must forage on their own for food.
Stop here and you have a story told many times before, as fiction and nonfiction in tales like Ellen Foster, or I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings --stories in which a young girl reveals the horrors of her childhood. Me & Emma differentiates itself with a spectacular finish, shocking the reader and turning the entire story on its head. Through several twists and turns the reader learns that things are not quite the way our narrator led us to believe and everything crescendos in a way that (like all good thrillers) immediately makes you want to go back and read the whole book again from the start. --Victoria Griffith
From Publishers Weekly
"I got handed lemons, too, y'know—but I learned how to make lemonade with them.... No one ever told me I had to add sugar but that's life for you. It ain't sweet." That's the jumbled and unforgiving logic that drives Flock's (But Inside I'm Screaming) second novel, a punishing Southern family drama that tries to achieve To Kill a Mockingbird–grade poignancy by heaping tribulations on its child narrator. The novel starts off sweetly, with the smalltown antics of Carrie, a scrappy Scout-like eight-year-old who's always accompanied by her younger sister Emma. Carrie dreamily darts back and forth between her rough-and-tumble present (abusive stepfather, unloving mother) and the happy memories of her dead father, creating a bittersweet picture of her life in Toast, N.C., spiked with colorful Southern language and some feisty supporting characters. But journalist Flock soon loses control of her meandering story and this Southern slice-of-life disintegrates into narrative chaos. The action moves "slow as a crippled turtle," as Carrie's Momma would say, and down-home charm fails to camouflage the creaky, roundabout chronology. After nearly 300 pages of rambling drama, the twist at the end is revealed so haphazardly that it will probably bewilder readers more than surprise them. Sugarcoated it ain't, but instead of delivering profundity, Flock's tough love turns poor forsaken Carrie into a caricature.
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