Readers who breathed a sigh of relief at the end of Blackbird
, when 12-year-old orphan Jennifer Lauck was rescued from an abusive stepmother, will have to grit their teeth all over again for the second volume of her memoirs. Jennifer is adopted by her father's sister Peggy and her husband Dick Duemore: he's bullying and mean; she means well but doesn't want to hear anything negative and responds with cold anger to Jennifer's unwanted confidences and insufficiently cheerful behavior. She never feels wanted in a house where she seems valued only for the chores she performs---never well enough for Mom and Dad (as the Duemores insist she call them after the adoption), who remind her constantly how grateful she should be. In prose as stark as if it had been scraped with a scalpel, Lauck recounts an adolescence scarred by lovelessness and haunted by unfinished emotional business from her parents' deaths and separation from her older brother, Bryan. She's honest about her rage and inability to trust: we see her rejecting a sweet high school boyfriend and holding Bryan at arm's length during two brief reunions. Bryan's suicide is a low point, but it starts the healing process; she leaves a failing marriage, and the happiness she finds with her second husband helps her come to terms with her past. No one reading this pitiless book will think Lauck has forgiven the relatives whose lies and selfishness had such disastrous consequences for her and Bryan; she's bitter and she has reason to be. "I know there is a power to anger, the kind of power that helps you survive," she muses in a crucial passage that shows her moving on to acknowledge the necessity of "pulling [anger] back in order to make room for the good things like love and understanding and joy." --Wendy Smith
From Publishers Weekly
Those who relished Lauck's bestselling memoir Blackbird will dive happily into this satisfying sequel. It picks up at the bus station where readers left little Jennifer meeting her grandfather, who they hoped would provide a safe haven after the tragic events that left her orphaned and at the mercy of a wicked stepmother. This book opens with the police report of her brother Bryan's suicide; while its impact may be less dramatic to Lauck's first-time readers, they'll soon become absorbed by her compelling backstory and believable young voice. After settling into her grandparents' cozy trailer home, Jennifer learns that it's temporary; soon she will live with her Aunt Georgia and Uncle Dick. Other relatives take in Bryan, and they remain in separate households. In her new home, Jennifer becomes wary of the grownups who take advantage of her monthly Social Security checks but show little affection for her. She makes friends in high school and chronicles the vicissitudes of early love. In her first year of college, Lauck learns of Bryan's suicide, and his fate is never far from her mind. After a failed first marriage, Lauck finds happiness in a second marriage and a child, with the help of therapy and New Age inspiration. Eventually, she sets out to learn why her brother killed himself, and her journey ends with a spiritual awakening. Lauck's voice successfully blends the tragic-turned-triumphant heroine with the everywoman. Women readers especially will identify with her high school romances and college and career travails. (Oct. 9)Forecast: A 14-city tour, Blackbird's human interest cliffhanger and that book's success will take this one far.
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