First of all, I’d like to thank Julie for sending me a copy of her book, Into the Free. I won a contest on her blog for a different book, but she kindly sent me hers as well. Since I don’t often buy books, it was an unexpected blessing for me!
Before I start, I have to say that David C Cook did such an awesome job on this book cover. The matte, soft feel of it makes it a pleasure to hold, not to mention the color scheme and picture. I notice these things! And now it says New York Times Bestseller, as well–great job, Julie!
This novel begins with the very strong voice of a young girl named Millie. Millie is growing up in Mississippi in the Depression. I was immediately drawn to the first-person, present-tense point of view. I love sticking with one central character for the duration of the book.
And Millie is such a delightful character to follow! Surrounded by violence, drug abuse and other “heavy” situations, she’s growing up asking all kinds of philosophical and theological questions. She initially turns to the gypsies (Romany people) for wisdom. As she grows to be a teen, she falls head-over-heels in love with a young gypsy man.
These young love scenes perfectly capture that easy trust we have in that first boyfriend/girlfriend, when we ask ourselves “Is this what love is?” A time of “puppy love,” as my Grandma once put it. But for Millie, it feels more permanent (doesn’t it always?).
I’m trying not to give spoilers here, so I’ll just say that this book reminds me of times when everything in life seems to conspire against us. People who grow up this way ask God “Why do horrible things happen to innocent people?”
Many of Millie’s buffeting storms seem to be the direct result of the sins of the fathers. We meet a pastor who’s abused his position in his family, nearly crippling their relationship with God.
But Millie has to work through all these things. Do the sins of the fathers cause families to hopelessly repeat the cycle? Or do personal choices? I find her conclusions very interesting.
Julie also clearly knows horses. As she writes about rodeo life, her horse-whispering details are so spot-on, I found myself learning about horses without even trying (I’m more of a dog person, myself).
One of the main characters, “Bump,” has a large, poor family. But they’re thankful for everything God gives them–one of the shining lights in this novel. Makes me want to go over and visit them on the porch (cause I’m southern like that!).
Basically, if you liked The Help, you’ll probably love this book. Very southern, very intense. I’d highly recommend this novel for those who’ve been severely hurt and let down by life.
I’d be negligent if I didn’t mention the clear and captivating prose in this book! I saved the best till last. Here’s a quote that definitely tugged my heart-strings. This advice isn’t what everyone wants to hear in that first flush of young love, but it’s so true. And it made me so thankful, because I know I married the right one. When that dizzy happiness shows up again, years after marriage, it’s so much more fulfilling.
“Any fool can choose the boy who sends her heart into a flurry. But there’s a big deep divide between desire and devotion. You better not choose the boy who makes you dizzy. No, ma’am. You have to choose the one who is steady. Stable. Safe. Choose the one who loves you, through and through, for who you really are. The one who wouldn’t change a single thing about you, even if he could.”
****Have any of you read Julie’s book? I’d love to know your thoughts! If not, I highly recommend it!****