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Suffer the Little Children Kindle Edition
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The book begins with a visit to Anne's lonely cabin from her nearest neighbor's 13-year-old daughter, who has run away from home. This girl, whose name is Sarah and whose nickname is Little Bit, finds a loving surrogate mother in Anne and finds safety in her house, protected by Anne and her big Bouvier dog, Timber.
I realized early on that this book is not so much about the beauty of the north woods and the challenges of carving out a life there, where your nearest neighbor is five miles away, and there are only five families within a radius of an hour's drive. The book is about mother-daughter relationships, and specifically about running away from your problems. Anne's real daughter ran away years ago, not long after Anne's husband's tragic death, and they haven't had contact since. Her budding relationship with the girl, Little Bit, reawakens old painful memories of what happened between her and her own daughter, and Anne realizes she will have to confront her greatest fears and weaknesses in order to go on living.
Out of this simple and classical premise, Christina Carson builds an elegiac and moving novel. The vast and beautiful and dangerous wilderness stands for the unexplored spaces in the human heart, the places you don't even dare to go. I read the book slowly, revelling in the spare, compressed language and content to follow every meander of Anne Mueller's thoughts as she progressed in her exploration of the dark interior of her own soul. This book is a real winner, a classic.
Christina's hero, Anne, strives to do the right thing by her child and fails until she is almost killed by a rampant grizzly attack. She was already on the right path to reconciling with her child before she stumbled upon the bear, but it was her brush with death that spurred her to take the final step and risk all to bare her soul before her progeny.
Does this tale resolve itself in a tearful reunion? I can't say. That is for you to find out. I can only warn you that these stories do not always end happily. Mine didn't. I have been estranged from my first born son for more than twenty years. Unfortunately for him, he cannot let go of the anger that separates us. I suppose this is why I connected with Suffer the Children on such a primal level. I hoped for the best as I turned the pages just as I've hoped for the best as I've lived my life without my son.
Like Anne in Christina's novel, life has allowed me to touch on the lives of other children, some my own and some not, and somehow I've been a better father for them. Sure, I've stumbled just as Christina's hero did, but not so fatally as I had before.
As I read this novel I thought of the advice so many have given me as a writer, "write what you know," which has left me wondering, how does this author know so much. Her descriptions of the northern forests are spot on. Her narrative is full of actual woodlore. And, her description of the grizzly attack is painfully believable.
No, I have never been attacked by a grizzly, but I have read accounts of them written by real witnesses. My favorite comes from the diaries of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Those fearless explorers laughed at the indians and considered them cowardly for opening admitting their fear of grizzlies. However, on their first encounter, those brave frontiersmen hoisted their skirts and fled in terror when pursued by such a monster that was undeterred by several large caliber bullets that had punctured its lungs.
Suffer the Children is not a novel to be put aside lightly once begun. Nor will readers dismiss it from their minds when it is finished. It will linger and tease their souls with questions and challenges in the middle of the night. Parents especially will wonder, did I do the right thing? Do I need forgiveness? From my child? From myself?
But the book isn't special simply because of it's message, the characters are heart-breakingly real and the places are touchable. I know the house Nannie lives in and her clearing in the Alberta bushland. I can see the path she and Little Bit travel on the during that fateful night.
If everyone read and absorbed a 10th of this book, the world could change for the better. Congratulations and thank you to Christina Carson for writing a life-altering story.
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