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Friday, March 19, 2010

March Misfit by Barbara Stremikis

March Misfit by Barbara Stremikis
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical, Inspirational
Age Recommendation: 12+
Length: Full Length (270 pgs)
Rating: 5 Suns
Reviewed by Fern

When a mudslide destroys her home and kills her parents, fifteen-year-old Cara Talbot is sent to live with a distant cousin, his wife, and five sons on a dairy farm in Indiana. The stink of cattle, a tiny bedroom loft, and two brothers who resent her intrusion make life a bitter struggle. As she copes with her grief, she finds solace caring for an autistic child, who helps her see the softer side of Nicolas March, another family misfit.

March Misfit is a poignant and unforgettable tale about starting anew; surrounded by people, difficulties, and circumstances beyond your control. Although told through varying perspectives, this is orphaned fifteen-year old Cara’s story. When she enters into a large family living on the edge of poverty -- all of whom are virtual strangers -- she is the focal point and foundation of the work. It’s an amazing journey that enraptures from start to finish, and once I started, I couldn’t put the book down.

In the beginning of the story, you are introduced to a devastated Cara who has been sent to live with the March family. They are so unlike the family and home she lost, living in an impoverished milk farm with endless chores and responsibilities. There is little to no room in their home, and her presence seems to annoy her male cousins more than anything else. The first chapter truly sets the tone, using stellar description and imagery to place the reader in the center of Cara’s situation. Could you imagine being ripped out of a life of love, comfort, and happiness only to be given a room with a curtain for the door, a bathroom that is adjoined to the living room, and zero privacy?

As the story progresses, the relationships unfurl like the petals on a flower, slow but sure. You have the autistic son, Alan, whose family has no idea what he suffers from. The mischievous and impulsive Gideon, who gives Cara a hard time. The patient and understanding David, who extends a much needed amount of friendship. Mr. and Mrs. March, whose marriage seems to be suffering due to Mr. March’s poor decisions and toxic jealousy. And of course, there is Nicholas, the son who is the shunned thread who holds the family together, yet, has a secret of his own. Each character brings something to the table and, as the layers build, it makes for an amazing story.

This is a book that can be enjoyed by teens, as well as their parents. Author Barbara Stremikis has created something that is a breath of fresh air, with characters you’ll think of long after you’ve finished. I was impressed with her ability to shift from character to character, focus on their separate issues, and merge them all together seamlessly while maintaining the somber tone and feel of the work. There is so much more here than the story of a heartbroken teenager who is trying to find her place in the world, but rather, focuses on true life circumstances and the way they shape and mold our decisions, thinking, and way of life.

A definite must read, be sure to put March Misfit on your TBR list.

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