March 18, 2014
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The eldest of ten children on a dirt-poor farm, Becky trudges through life as a full-time babysitter, trying to avoid her father's periodic violent rages. When the family's barn burns down, her father lays the blame on Becky, and her own mother tells her to run for it. Run she does, hopping into an empty freight car. There, in a duffel bag, Becky finds an abandoned baby girl, only hours old. After years of tending to her siblings, sixteen-year-old Becky knows just what a baby needs. This baby needs a mother.
With no mother around, Becky decides, at least temporarily, this baby needs her. When Becky hops off the train in a small Georgia town, it's with baby "Georgia" in her arms. When she meets Rosie, an eccentric thrift-shop owner, who comes to value and love Becky as no one ever has, Becky rashly claims the baby as her own. Not everyone in town is as welcoming as Rosie, though. Many suspect Becky and her baby are not what they seem. Among the doubters is a beautiful, reclusive woman with her own terrible loss and a long history with Rosie.
As Becky's life becomes entangled with the lives of the people in town, including a handsome boy who suspects Becky is hiding something from her past, she finds her secrets more difficult to keep. Becky should grab the baby and run, but her newfound home and job with Rosie have given Becky the family she's never known. Despite her guilt over leaving her mother alone, she is happy for the first time. But it's a happiness not meant to last. When the truth comes out, Becky has the biggest decision of her life to make. Should she run away again? Should she stay--and fight? Or lie? What does the future hold for Becky and Georgia? With a greatness of heart and a stubborn insistence on hope found in few novels of any genre, "Providence" proves that home is where you find it, love is an active verb, and family is more than just a word.
I almost did not request Providence when I saw it on NetGalley; the publication date had passed and it was both an author and publisher with whom I was unfamiliar (Merit Press is the YA imprint Jacquelyn Mitchard started). Not giving it a try would have been a huge mistake.
While reading Providence the word that kept coming to mind was 'quaint'. While the word has almost negative - ie boring - connotations, that wasn't why. The actual definition of quaint, 'having an old-fashioned or unusual quality or appearance that is usually attractive or appealing' fits the novel very well. While still feeling very modern, current and relevant, it also felt a lot like a novel that had been written twenty years ago.
In some ways it reminded me of the Sharon Creech novels I read in middle school. It isn't a story full of drugs, drinking and sex, instead it's about the characters, their secrets and how the lives in a small town all come together. The premise itself - a girl running away from a neglectful, sometimes abusive family, finding an abandoned baby on a train, becoming her mother, the secrets she's keeping - make it YA novel and not MG, despite the lack of any usual teen exploits.
Becky's story - both her past that we learn about in snippets and her present - draw you in immediately.The story is focused on the present, but we are given enough insight into Becky's past to understand the contrast and how it affects her decisions. It is hard to know just how everything can all work out for Becky and Georgia, yet, the more of Providence you read, the more you want it to.
Becky, Georgia and Rosie become their own little family. In many ways finally giving Becky the life she never got to have back home. The truth is always there, though, in the back of Becky's mind. She is keeping secrets from Rosie and everyone in the town. The question is how long secrets can stay secret . . . and what will happen if or when they are revealed.
I absolutely loved Providence. The characters are amazing - Becky, Rosie and those Becky meets in the town - and the plot is something unique and new. With so much focus on the characters, little mention of technology, the story having romance but it not being a main focus, Providence had a timeless feel to it. It's a book that can be enjoyed by readers of nearly any age.
The only teeny, tiny place I would have liked a bit more was with Becky's family. As the story progressed I did get a better picture of what her life had been like before, but I never got quite the sense of her parent's and siblings I wanted. It would have given a fuller picture of the main character. What we were given did seem to work for the story, however.
I know I'll be paying more attention to Merit Press in the future as well as looking out for future releases from author Liza Colozza Cocca.
digital copy received through NetGalley thanks to publisher