Erin Vincent, Delacort Press, 2007.
Say you’re fourteen years old, and your parents are involved in an accident. Your mother is killed instantly, and your father is severely injured. A month later, your father succumbs to his injuries. You, your older sister, and your toddler brother, now need to strike out on your own. Along the way, you deal with unsympathetic family friends, thieving relatives, insensitive news reporters, nattering classmates, questionable school counselors, predators of many stripes, and, thankfully, a few helpful friends and neighbors.
Vincent writes her true story in the frank, direct voice of her fourteen year old self. She not only describes her navigation of the emotional rapids, but also gives honest voice to the thoughts and feelings that one is not “supposed” to have. She includes enough humor to get the reader through the experience, although she made me cry several times before she was done.
Unlike most books billed as “uplifting,” Vincent’s doesn’t end with a triumphant epiphany, or a blazing message of hope for all humanity. There is a accomplishment, a victory of sorts, but it’s a much shakier, more human: an emerging-from-the-crucible kind of victory. There really is a message of hope for humanity there, but it’s not writ large, nor accompanied by the swelling of the orchestra. The message is much quieter. People experience terrible things. And people can, and do survive them, but it’s not easy and there are no guarantees.