|Author: Angela Johnson|
|"You never know what''s gonna come down -- in Heaven."|
At fourteen, Marley knows she has Momma''s hands and Pops''s love for ice cream, that her brother doesn''t get on her nerves too much, and that Uncle Jack is a big mystery. But Marley doesn''t know all she thinks she does, because she doesn''t know the truth. And when the truth comes down with the rain one stormy summer afternoon, it changes everything. It turns Momma and Pops into liars. It makes her brother a stranger and Uncle Jack an even bigger mystery.
All of a sudden, Marley doesn''t know who she is anymore and can only turn to the family she no longer trusts to find out.
Truth often brings change. Sometimes that change is for the good. Sometimes it isn''t. Coretta Scott King award-winning author Angela Johnson writes a poignant novel of deception and self-discovery -- about finding the truth and knowing what to do when truth is at hand.
Fourteen-year-old Marley lives in the perfect town of Heaven, Ohio. Marley loves her life--she has two caring parents, an Uncle whom she loves very much, and lots of friends. But life turns out to be far from perfect when Marley finds out that she's adopted and that her "parents" are really her uncle and aunt. Now her entire family feels like strangers to her. Will Marley find out who her real parents are? And if she does, can she handle it?
"The theme of not being who you think you are has both relevance and appeal; this unmelodramatic and thoughtful exploration of the topic will satisfy adolescent readers grappling with similar questions." - Deborah Stevenson December 1998 Publishers Weekly
As in her Gone from Home (reviewed above), Johnson here explores the themes of what makes a place home and which people family. Fourteen-year-old Marley's tranquil life in Heaven, Ohio, turns hellish the day her family receives a letter from Alabama. The note (from the pastor of a church that was destroyed by arson) requests a replacement for Marley's baptismal record, and reveals that "Momma" and "Pops" are really Marley's aunt and uncle, and mysterious Jack (an alleged "uncle" with whom Marley has corresponded but doesn't remember) is her true father. In this montage of Marley's changing perceptions, Johnson presents fragments of the whole picture a little at a time: images of people, places (the Western Union building "1637" steps away from Marley's house) and artifacts (a box filled with love letters between her birth parents) gain significance as Marley begins to make sense of the past and integrate her perceptions into her new identity. The author's poetic metaphors describe a child grasping desperately for a hold on her reality ("It was one of those nights that started to go down before the sun did," she says of the evening the fateful letter arrives). The melding of flashbacks and present-day story line may be confusing initially, but readers who follow Marley's winding path toward revelation will be well rewarded. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) 7/31/98 School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-What makes a person who she is? Is it her name, the people she lives with, or is blood the only link to identity? Marley, 14, suddenly plunges head first into these complex questions when she discovers that the people she's been living with her entire life aren't her real parents. Butchy is not her real brother, and her mysterious Uncle Jack, who has been writing her short but beautiful letters for as long as she can remember, turns out to be her real, very absent father. In spare, often poetic prose reminiscent of Patricia MacLachlan's work, Johnson relates Marley's insightful quest into what makes a family. Her extreme anger with her supposed parents, who turn out to be her aunt and uncle, for not telling her the truth, for not being the perfect family that she'd always thought them to be, wars with her knowledge that not even her friend Shoogy Maple's model family is as perfect and beautiful as it seems. The various examples of "family" Marley encounters make her question what's real, what's true, what makes sense, and if any of that really matters as much as the love she continues to feel for her parents in spite of their seeming betrayal. Johnson exhibits admirable stylistic control over Marley's struggle to understand a concept that is often impossible to understand or even to define.-Linda Bindner, formerly at Athens Clarke County Library, GA 10/1/98