By Ashley Lane
Copyright © 2008
$25.99 Hard Cover
$ 2.99 E-Book
When I saw Minnie posted for review request, I knew I wanted to review it even before I read the preview. There was just something about it that appealed to me and drew me in. In fact, I put dibs on the book before I read the preview, and then realized I had better do my homework first and find out exactly what I was getting myself into. My instincts were spot on, because as I read the preview, I knew the protagonist for Minnie was my kind of character.
Sadey Leach has reached her senior year of high school, is barely scraping by in her classes, and her ability to graduate is in question because she has not completed the compulsory number of volunteer hours required during her high school career. Sadey is very Goth girl in her appearance, black hair, black clothes, heavy dark makeup, and has an irreverent and uncaring attitude she projects to the world. With an attitude as black as her appearance, and bouts of underage drinking and experimentation with pills, Sadey Leach appears to be on a self-destructive path with no redeeming features.
Minnie is a fluffy grandmotherly type of seventy-nine who resides at Forest Hills Convalescent Hospital and is confined to a wheelchair. Minnie is very lonely, as she does not frequently have visitors and has been praying that God will send her a friend to give her some company. On Sadey's first volunteer day, she wheels Minnie, who says she feels like Queen Wilhelmina when someone pushes her chair, to the table for dinner.
“This is Hell! This is Hell!” Sadey said behind clenched teeth as a resident’s fart entered her vicinity.
“Please don’t say that.” Sadey glanced down at Queen Wilhelmina as she fought with a bib.
Wilhelmina sat as straight as she could. “Young lady, God frowns upon swearing.”
Sadey bent down close to the woman’s ear. “I’m not here to make friends. I’m here to work for twenty-four hours because I want to get out of this Hell-hole called Woodridge.” Sadey fastened her bib and moved on, rolling her eyes so hard she thought she damaged the nerves.
Wilhelmina felt the intended sting by the girl’s words. Lord, when will You bless me with that friend? She knew that getting something as grand as a friend wouldn’t come easy and without complications like the girl with thick makeup masking her face like an oil change gone wrong.
As the character of Sadey develops, we find her public persona is simply a defense mechanism against the situations in her life. Saddled with an alcoholic mother who has an endless parade of men coming through the house, and the responsibility of caring for her three year old sister because her mother didn't want the baby and refuses to care for her, Sadey is barely hanging on. All of her mother's income goes to alcohol and cheap cigarettes, so Sadey finds odd jobs where she can to help provide food for herself and Cora. The closest thing to a mother-daughter relationship Sadey has experienced in her life, is when her mother left discarded magazines for Sadey to read. Relying on her neighbors, Mira and Darius Finn, to watch Cora while she volunteered at the nursing home alleviated one of the issues in Sadey's complicated life.
After a few more visits at the Convalescent Center, Minnie invites Sadey to unburden herself to a willing listener when she's ready, and shortly after Sadey takes her up on the offer. Through their growing relationship, Sadey learns that while Minnie looks the part of the archetypal grandmother, Minnie has had a hard past, yet has a sweet soul and a positive attitude toward life. Sadey becomes the friend Minnie had been praying for, and through Minnie's influence, Sadey is changing not only her appearance, but her attitude and outlook on life.
Ashley Lane spins a tale which has all of the elements of a good story; love, loss, growth, relationships, hardship, drawing the reader in from page one. As I read Minnie I was reminded of the following quote:
A reader is not supposed to be aware that someone's written the story. He's supposed to be completely immersed, submerged in the environment. ~ Jack Vance
In a few broad strokes, Lane paints the picture of two souls who were meant to meet, and the impact they have on one another ripples out to their surroundings. Minnie espouses good Christian values without being preachy, and shows how overcoming bad circumstances is possible. It contains a message of hope and love which is uplifting. Even the cover, though simple, conveys a message to the reader. A sunny background, a wheelchair, and a butterfly, all add up to a message of hope and the circle of life. Ashley Lane delicately and deftly depicts characters at both ends of the spectrum, one entering adulthood, and one nearing the end. She captures the feelings of loneliness and invisibility which plague our aging population, and equally well portrays teenage angst at its height. The peripheral characters are also excellently portrayed and I feel like I know them; they could all live in my neighborhood. I laughed and cried, and the characters have stayed with me days after finishing the book, which is what we look for from a good read.
Preview Minnie by Ashley Lane
Originally reviewed for the LL Book Review
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