Trish Doller writes books that tackle tough subjects. This makes them not easy to read, but she writes the stories with such heart and passion it is worth it. Where the Stars Still Shine is one of the hardest books I've read in a long while.
Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with
her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what
normal life might be like. She's never had a home, never gone to
school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending
machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget
completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping
her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have
been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to
leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she
must believe that love—even with someone who seems an improbable
choice—is more than just a possibility.
Callie does not know what it is like to have a normal life. Her life has been her mother, moving every few months, and learning to dodge the men in her mother's life (one molested her at the age of 8). She hasn't been to school since Kindergarten. She spends time in libraries reading. She has found boys willing to hook up with her, but has never had a relationship. Or a friend. From this life she is yanked and dropped into a world where she has a dad who loves her, a Greek family and community she is a part of, and a friend. She has no idea how to cope. Nothing in her life is ever permanent and she's determined this won't be either. It's heart breaking to read about. I did skip some sections of the book (the ones where she referenced her abuse-because I just can't read about that). Not that any of it was gratuitously nasty or intentionally provocative. I liked the way Doller handled this storyline. (I have simply heard too many real life accounts of this that I can't read about it any book.) The way Callie lives her life and the choices she makes largely come from her inability to trust people or cope with her past.
There is a boy in the book. A hot Greek boy that works on a boat. However, as wonderful of Alex is he can't rescue Callie completely from the horrors of her past and Doller didn't let him. He has issues of his own and isn't always a nice guy. Which makes him so real. One strength with both of Doller's novels so far has been how REAL she makes her characters. I appreciated how there were a lot of forces at work on Callie's life and it this is not a story about romance. This is a story about Callie and it all plays a part. Alex, her new-found family, her complicated feelings toward her mother, they all shape her. I also enjoyed the friendship that grew between Callie and Kat. Kat is also very real and with her share of faults. She can be insensitive and unthinking toward Callie, but she is also something Callie needed, an actual girlfriend. Doller has a knack, like Melina Marchetta, for taking characters who start in a very dark place and bringing them to a better place where they can find healing.Not a perfect place, because there is no such thing, but one withe hope for the future.
This book is not for the faint of heart, but those brave enough to read it will find a beautiful, real story.
I read an e-galley provided by the publisher, Bloomsbury USA, via NetGalley. Where the Stars Still Shine is on sale September 24.