A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd.
Random House: NY, 2007.
Originally David Fickling Books: Oxford, England, 2006.

Siobhan Dowd's first novel is a cry-your-eyes-out story. It is riveting and stirring. I cried half the way through it and wanted to shake the citizens of the town for ignoring Shell's problems-things the whole town was aware of.

Shell's mother died more than a year ago. Her father's inability to cope leaves her to raise her two younger siblings. Dealing with her own grief and teen concerns, she needs guidance which she doesn't receive, until the unthinkable happens, landing her in the middle of what the local authorities consider a murder case. Gossip and her father's guilty conscience compound the suspicion surrounding her.

There is so much going on in this story. It totally took me by surprise. It also brought up so many feelings from my adolescent years. It deals with a village that is secretive and gossipy, saying they look out for their own, and not doing so. It deals with teen pregnancy-the desperation of keeping it a secret (although that's not really possible), the heavy burden of guilt which keeps them from asking for the help they need, and the isolation that the situation propels the teens into. It compares a young caring priest who personally wants to help the needy with the more experienced, politically-minded pastor who cautions him about getting involved. Most surprising is the case of the dead babies with the detective's determination to pin them on Shell even when the facts are not adding up.

Looking at the plot of the book, it might seem like it's such a lot of trouble and just thoroughly depressing. There is a strength in Shell, though, that makes you believe somehow it will be okay. There is also beauty in the writing of the story and Shell's character. A wonderful surprise also was Father Rose, of which I believe there are too few in the world. He reached out to Shell when no one else did.

When I finished the book, I did some searching to find more about the author. I was sad to see that she died in 2007.

related-teen pregnancy, alcoholism, death of a parent, dating, family problems, Ireland, Catholic priests, spirituality, life in small towns, birth, care of children
RL=YA-adult, mature content

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