Running for My Life focuses on a girl traumatized by her mother's mental illness and shows us how she begins to heal through therapy and running (and...moreRunning for My Life focuses on a girl traumatized by her mother's mental illness and shows us how she begins to heal through therapy and running (and spitting, believe it or not). It's a book that strives to illuminate the issues of mental health and the healing benefits of therapy but it is bogged down by improbable situations, unrealistic characters, and unpolished writing.
The book begins with the main character, Andrea, in such an overwrought state that it was hard for me to get into the story--it is as if the author leaves herself nowhere to go with the character. It didn't help that this 14-year-old girl, who dates and fantasizes about going to the prom, also carries around a stuffed bunny named Pedro--even going so far as holding him up to the phone so he can "hear" her conversations. It is no doubt meant to show us how traumatized Andrea is but it just seemed absurdly childish to me. Even the details of Andrea's therapy sessions--drawing pictures to illustrate her feelings, treasuring medallions the therapist gives her that say "Courageous" or "Strong"--seem to be more the way a therapist would treat a child than a teenager. Almost as if the author wrote the book about a six year old, then changed it to a teenager's story later.
The character of the girl's father is especially unrealistic--Mike Brady himself couldn't say or do the perfect thing as often as Andrea's father did. And the other teenagers that Andrea interacts with are all amazingly sensitive and understanding of her problems--which is nice, but not quite believable. The only character who is portrayed as unsympathetic--almost evil--is Andrea's mother. For a novel that is supposed to help children come to terms with a mentally-ill parent, this story takes a pretty dim view of the mother and her condition. She is definitely the villain of the piece and the circumstances of her hospitalization and eventual release seem particularly improbable.
Overall, I did not find this a well-balanced look at mental illness and its effect on families, and I don't think the writing is good enough to overcome the story's flaws.(less)
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I expected just another OMG-he-is-so-hot story but this novel has so much more depth than that. I absolutely...moreI was pleasantly surprised by this book. I expected just another OMG-he-is-so-hot story but this novel has so much more depth than that. I absolutely loved Carrie, the main character. She's strong and fearless and not afraid to speak her mind, even as she's overwhelmed by her feelings for Luke. The story takes a tragic turn--and it's not an exaggeration to say that the town of Stillburrow is changed forever--but I'm very glad I picked up Carrie and Luke's story. (less)
Marcia Schuyler revolves around Marcia and her sister Kate and their relationship with David Spafford. The story begins a few days before Kate is to w...moreMarcia Schuyler revolves around Marcia and her sister Kate and their relationship with David Spafford. The story begins a few days before Kate is to wed David. Marcia sees David's worth and rejoices in her sister's good fortune, but Kate herself finds David too staid and moralising. As a result, she elopes with another man the night before the wedding.
On the morning of the wedding, the Schuyler family discovers Kate's note explaining what she has done, and Mr. Schuyler, disgraced by his daughter's betrayal, offers his younger daughter, Marcia, to David as recompense. Marcia, seeing David's heartbreak, and eager to help him avoid the embarrassment of returning home without the bride he came to fetch agrees, as does David. Marcia is seventeen, but described as a child just approaching womanhood. David is twenty-seven so the difference in their ages is a little uncomfortable, although that kind of age difference was common in romances of old.
Marcia and David are married by chapter six and the rest of the book chronicles the trials of their marriage--Marcia moving away and dealing with David's interfering aunts, David dealing with his broken heart, and both dealing with the fallout of swapping one bride for another--and the romance as they eventually find each other. It's not a story that contains many surprises (it's a romance after all, and we know where it's headed) but the journey is an enjoyable one. My biggest criticisms of the book would be the one-dimensional characters--the good characters (Marcia and David) are impossibly good; Marcia, especially, never puts a foot wrong, is admired by all who see her, and practically has woodland characters following her and singing to her like some animated Disney heroine; and the bad characters are saturated with evil (Kate, for instance, and her cohort, Harry Temple, who plot to ruin Marcia to revenge themselves on David)--and the overwrought prose. I also felt there were certain class distinctions that grated on my modern sensibilities (for instance, lower-class characters are given dialect, even in written letters) and the "third act" drags a bit as characters achieve realizations we thought they'd reached long ago, or reach the same conclusion over and over.
The story takes place in the 1830s and one subplot revolves around the development of a steam railway in Albany, NY. David is a journalist with his own small-town newspaper, but somehow is involved in making the dream of a steam railway a reality. Hill is rather vague on how a journalist is involved in making the railway happen, but it is a convenient plot device to get David out of town about halfway through the novel. I enjoyed the historical aspects of the story--Hill does a good job of recreating the era and some details were fascinating. For instance, at an evening gathering to celebrate David and Marcia's wedding we're told, "They served cake and raspberry vinegar then, and a little while after everybody went home." Do you suppose they drank the vinegar? Or dipped the cake in it? And was that a well known signal for everyone to go home? It's an intriguing question.
Overall, I liked the book. It held my attention and I wanted to keep reading it. I never felt like I was slogging through it, and I definitely want to read the remaining two books in the Miranda trilogy (Phoebe Deane and Miranda). (less)