Finding a sense of belonging and safety is the "stuff" underlying the plots of countless novels some packed with never ending action and others focused on the emotional turmoil of self-discovery.
The Place of Belonging by Jayne Pearson Faulkner fits neither category but is instead a quiet fiction memoir retracing a young girl's childhood in 1940's Big Sky Montana. As the book blurb points out, it is a place many of us will recognize, a step back in time. But this book is not all sweet remembrance. Faulkner softly creates an image of a young girl, deeply loved by her grandmother and mother, but always set aside by the community and even their church as being different, all because she did not have a father. When her mother does marry, Janie is already seven, past by the cuddly and cute stage that could capture a step-father's heart. As baby after baby arrived to her mother and stepfather, Janie becomes part of a growing family that needs her help. but still sets her aside. Even the living arrangements set Janie apart from her family. During the week she continues to live with her steadfast grandmother in the city, traveling each weekend by bus to the Big Sky farm to see her family.
A photo at the end of the book will show this separation, felt by the young girl, but never spoken alou -- a jumble of toddlers with blonde hair and blue eyes like their father, and older, dark-haired, dimpled Janie, a contrast of difference. This photo begs the question of how much of this story is fiction (called a fiction memoir) and how much is fact. I actually forgot the book had been classified as fiction. The young girl's narrator voice has the right mixture of age appropriate innocence, first heartbreaks and developing insight.
I did not grow up in the 1940's, or even in Montana, but I recognized the hard working families - the joys of new puppies and kittens, the harsh realities of farming, and the simple rewards of hard work. In this modern time of split families and abandoned responsibilities, many readers will be attracted to grandma who seemingly tirelessly keeps the family on solid footing with her cooking, cleaning, and loving.
This is not a dark tale of abuse or neglect, but rather a realistic tale illustrating that our place in the world, or even within our family, is not a guaranteed secure place, revealed at our birth. Janie's spot was complicated by the sometimes cruel mores of tradition and the "no-emotions" barriers of her new Swedish family, but when she finally comes to spot of belonging, you will rejoice at her arrival. Jayne Pearson Faulkner has been a missionary, and I would love to hear of her adventures as such. She is a delightful story teller who deftly handles mixing the profound occurances of life with the ordinary.
I received a copy of this title from Bring It On Communications for review purposes. All opinions are my own. Check out this promotional you tube video for the book. Want a short book to fill an evening or to take along as you travel. Get a copy or e-copy of Place of Belonging and enjoy it.