Thursday, December 5, 2013

Broken kids, broken families

LIVE TO TELL By: Lisa Gardener ISBN: 0553807242, Recorded from:, New York : Bantam Books, c2010 I read a lot, and usually, I can finish a book, decide it’s worth talking about and put it in my list for later Blog posts. However, every once in a long while, a book slips inside my personal “reading” space, and finds me where I “live”. I don’t always recognize what’s happening until the very end, although there are some signs deferring things such as food and sleep so I can keep reading. I certainly know it *has* happened, though, as soon as I read the last word. For a moment, I find myself a little breathless, a little dizzy, an “shell shocked” enough that forming simple mental sentences is difficult. It never lasts long, maybe for the space of an in drawn breath, and with my “wow” or “oh, my god” on the exhale, I’m released. I can’t altogether define what is required for such an effect, either. Sometimes it is writing that is so astoundingly lovely that the urge is to read sentence by sentence, practically memorizing each sentence, then writing them down, to be considered separately, with the same attention one would give, say to a haiku. Usually, though I think it’s a combination of writing, plot, character development, the handling of themes or issues …which all coalesce into something close to miraculous for me, takes away my breath, my words and my thoughts for a time, and leaves me enriched beyond measure. Such a book was Live to Tell by Lisa Gardener. It is one of the earlier D. D. Warren books, and I’ve read and liked other books in the series, but this one …got me good, so to speak. It has all the things one expect from Lisa Gardener, excellent writing, great characters, some of whom you love, some of whom you love to hate, and a plot that builds and builds and then glues you to your seat and the book. So …what was special about this book? In this book, the plot revolves around very troubled children and the ways in which they are both destroyed and helped. We don’t usually think of mental illness in terms of very young children, but it exists, and the author shows its extremely dark side with incredible vividness, but she also shows those health care specialists who are in the trenches, fighting with indomitable courage to help and hopefully to help save these little ones. Both stories are profoundly moving, and the children themselves break my heart and make me want to scoop them up and hug them at the same time. Added to the usually riveting plot, and the characters who walk off the page and stay for dinner (and if you’re going to cook for D. D. Warren, be prepared to cook a *lot*), this is one of those books that have changed me just a little, and this book is now a part of what I sometimes think of as my mental DNA.