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Saturday, February 18, 2012

My review of Into the Free by Julie Cantrell

About the book:

Just a girl. The only one strong enough to break the cycle. 

In Depression-era Mississippi, Millie Reynolds longs to escape the madness that marks her world. With an abusive father and a “nothing mama,” she struggles to find a place where she really belongs.For answers, Millie turns to the Gypsies who caravan through town each spring. The travelers lead Millie to a key which unlocks generations of shocking family secrets. When tragedy strikes, the mysterious contents of the box give Millie the tools she needs to break her family’s longstanding cycle of madness and abuse. Through it all, Millie experiences the thrill of first love while fighting to trust the God she believes has abandoned her. With the power of forgiveness, can Millie finally make her way into the free?

My review:

Into the Free was an intense story, but I loved it and was pulled into the story and into the characters' lives. The portrayal of their hardship was very realistic in that many abused children feel exactly the same way that Millie did. I appreciated that because so often people don't understand that abused children get a bit freaked out by loving families.

Having worked with foster children for almost two decades, I saw this scenario often. Those same children are also very loyal to their own families, twisted as they might be. They are always waiting for the other ball to drop and to be hurt again. Too often that is exactly what happens. And they are drawn to the dark, dangerous types of boys. Many of those men start out amazing but once a girl is in a relationship with them, they are trapped. I felt really bad for the gypsy boy, River, because I do believe he sincerely loved Millie, but one never knows where that intense emotional stuff will lead, good or bad. In fact, her life often reflected the savagery of the dog that ate her own pups. I loved that metaphor and many of the other metaphors used in the story.

At any rate, I adored this author's voice, and the way she wasn't afraid to show the ugliness of life in all of it's authenticity, including how people perceive things who have been wounded. Faith isn't about dressing up on Sunday and sitting nicely in a pew. Not all Christians are white, though southern preachers in those days very well may have tried to present it that way. I agreed with Millie when it came to the hypocrisy she saw. I don't think God cares about that. What He wants is our hearts and He will use everything and anything to bring us to Him. This story showed that well.

Into the Free also showed strength and determination from a girl only used to seeing passivity, weakness, and neglect. Unfortunately, many women think they must stay and bear the brunt of the man's abuse. The strongest thing Millie's mom ever did was not to take him back after that last time where he nearly killed her. I understood the rage Millie felt toward her mom's depression. So well done!

The Sloth character was great, but I also found it a bit disconcerting how she "saw" him even after she died. Then again, I can see a wounded child like Millie looking for comfort and security anywhere, even if she imagines it and believes it is real. When Sloth passed, she lost her best friend and the one person who seemed to care about her. The story was sad, but empowering at the same time. I like deep reads like this because they make me think about life, faith, and real love.

I find survivor stories empowering. I didn't feel like anything was over-the-top. In real life, God doesn't always intervene. Most of the time, He doesn't. But He holds us when we hurt and carries us through. This story shows how anyone can survive and change the direction of their life. Even the most wounded people can still find God. There were many nuggets of truth in this novel that were an integral part of Millie's coming of age and her faith journey. I can see this book as a classic and I think it would make a great movie! Anyway, it's making my favorites list. It's fantastic!

Into the Free was published by David C. Cook and released in February 2012. I received an advance copy of the book from the publisher for review, but the opinion expressed above is entirely my own.

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