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A Swift Pure Cry Paperback – September 9, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up—A poignant tale, set in Ireland in 1984. When her mother dies, 15-year-old Shell Talent becomes trapped in a depressing life with her pious, but alcoholic father. Having given up his job to devote his life to the Lord, he leaves Shell and her younger siblings with no real means to support themselves. Longing to escape this cycle of poverty, Shell pins her hopes and dreams on visions of their new priest, Father Rose, as Jesus Christ come back to Earth. These dreams soon come to a crashing end as Shell turns to a schoolmate for solace. Trapped in a pregnancy that results from this relationship, she must make a decision that could mean life or death for the new life she carries. As Shell struggles to bring her child into her world unnoticed, Dowd drives home her message of the hopelessness of the situation through clear, concise, yet powerful language. Readers are introduced to an amazing young woman who, despite all odds, finds the strength to overcome a growing scandal that has the potential to disrupt the peaceful order of her small church and town.—Caryl Soriano, New York Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Everything's been wrong since 15-year-old Shell's Mam died. Her father forces his kids to say the rosary and then gets drunk. They live from money he skims off donations he collects for the church. Shell is left to take care of her younger brother and sister in their Irish village; her only joy comes in stolen moments with a local lad. Then her guy goes off to America, and though Shell pretends otherwise, she is pregnant. In a scene both graphic and horrific, Shell delivers a stillborn baby girl. The novel could have gone several ways, but perhaps because it is based on a true story, its path is unexpected. A dead baby is found, and the authorities, thinking it is Shell's, accuse her of murder. Moreover, the authorities suspect her own dad is the baby's father. Or perhaps the baby's father is the new priest. The words pure andcry in the title are apt, for this novel has a lyrical purity to it, and its cry is from the heart. Dowd evokes her setting impressively, and she realizes her characters with a sensitivity that is, at times, breathtaking. Not always easy to read, but well worth it. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: David Fickling Books; Reprint edition (September 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440422183
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440422181
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #591,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on April 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
After her mother died, fifteen-year-old Shell is left to take care of her younger brother and sister and her drunken father. They live in a small Irish village in a little farmhouse. Her mother's death has caused her father to drink even more than he did before, and in sudden religious zeal, he goes out daily to make his "collections." These donations are meant for the church, but he takes out more than his fair share before turning in the remains.

Life is difficult. Shell is teased at school and skips out as much as possible. She attempts to look to the church for support, and a new young priest seems to offer a shoulder to lean on. Eventually, Shell seeks emotional release in a relationship with an older boy. They begin a secret relationship spent mostly hidden in the barley field where Declan takes advantage of Shell's need for tenderness. The inevitable happens - Shell becomes pregnant. Without her mother to confide in, Shell hides her condition, using a stolen library book to help her understand what is about to happen.

Shell is an amazing young girl. She struggles to hold the family together and deal with her circumstances as best she can. As the story unfolds, readers will be surprised at the unpredictable turn of events for Shell, her father, the young priest, and all involved in the unfortunate tragedy.

A SWIFT PURE CRY uses Irish dialect and lyrical prose to draw the reader into Shell's world. Her courage and faith shine clearly through this heartbreaking tale.

Reviewed by: Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky"
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Format: Hardcover
Fifteen-year-old Michelle (Shell) Talent's life has been difficult since her Mam died a year earlier. Her father has turned to Scripture and alcohol, in an attempt to escape reality and his inner demons. Shell looks after her younger brother and sister, Jimmy and Trix, whom she cares for very much. But other than this, her life isn't a very satisfying one. She's bored of church and embarrassed by her father's newfound religious zeal, which includes gathering --- and taking from --- the collections for the church's various charities and then spending many of his evenings at the local pub. As a result, there isn't much money for his children to live on, but Shell manages to keep her siblings happy, even if she's not.

Things begin to get better when Father Rose arrives in Coolbar. On the surface, it may seem that Shell has a schoolgirl crush on him, but the young priest is a breath of fresh air in the oppressive Irish community. Around the time of his arrival, Shell begins to sense her mother's spirit and clutches the memories and the few material items that belonged to her Mam --- including wearing the pink satin dress kept in the back of her father's wardrobe. Unfortunately, this act brings forth a disturbing incident of mistaken identity.

Shell seeks support from both the church and her friends --- the smooth-talking altar boy Declan Ronan and bold Birdie Carroll --- skipping class to share cigarettes and hear the cheeky rhymes that Declan usually makes up. However, the support she does get from Birdie doesn't last very long. Birdie accuses a confused, naïve Shell of being involved with Declan. Later, Shell does begin a relationship with Declan, though it is kept secret at his insistence.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kathy Dawson on April 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A Swift Pure Cry will take you into the emotional turmoil world of 15 year old, Shell. In her world she struggles with her mother's death, a drunken father, taking on the leadership of role of caring for her younger brother and sister, and if that wasn't enough she finds out that she .... You guessed it... is pregnant by her childhood friend, Declan!

With all these social issues in one story I couldn't help but be grateful that this story addressed some serious issues that involve both teens and adults. It was also a story that we as adults and teens can relate to rather that some hyped-up Hollywood film relaying an idealistic fantasy or an against-all-odds romance.

This is a story of hope and "A Swift Pure Cry" has something for everyone, young and old. I would certainly recommend this novel for all young adults and mothers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Schensted VINE VOICE on August 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
in a sentence or so: Shell's mam died a year ago. she and her brother, her sister, and her dad have been hobbling along ever since...until Father Rose comes to town and changes the way Shell experiences her life without her mam in the world.

Shell is 15 and raising her brother and sister on her own. sure, her dad is around, but he's either drunk or off collecting for the church's charity (and pocketing some for his booze). on the rare occasion that he is home, he orders Shell and siblings to pick rocks in the field (that he never plows), eats, and passes out. then, one Sunday during mass, Shell discovers a new priest in the pulpit. Father Rose is kind, warm, genuine, and fills Shell with a sense of purpose and love that she hadn't felt in a year.

things seemed to be going well for Shell - Father Rose giving her a new hope and purpose in life, her best friend Bridie and friend Delcan Ronan as solid school companions, and she was balancing being nice to her siblings while raising them at the same time. then, as soon as things become great, they turn sour. Bridie up and leaves without explaining to Shell why she's mad at her, and Declan (her eventual boyfriend) ditches, leaving Shell alone and feeling hollow. again.

i don't want to give anything away plot wise because things i expected to happen in a seemingly predictable coming-of-age-plot turned out not to be that way at all. in fact, there was even a real life gasp+hand over the mouth moment. no joke. this is still a coming of age in that Shell is 15, motherless, raising her sibs, and having to learn the hard (and incredibly awkward) way about periods, bras, and boys. even though i felt the plot was really solid and took some interesting and unexpected turns, it was the writing that really made this book shine.
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