“How far will you go for fame? Fifteen-year-old Charlene Shaw runs away from her small hometown in North Carolina to become an actress. She meets a truck driver, the gold cross around his neck is a good sign that he will get her closer to her dreams; right? On the self-destructive road to stardom, Charlene’s using everything in her path to erase the past and the baby she abandoned—her daughter, Raven. Just thinking about Raven sends chills of fear down Charlene’s spine.
Raven Shaw grows up in her mother’s tight-knit town and has been dubbed “Miss Goodie Two Shoes.” Though she is head of the children’s choir, nothing can pacify her rage when someone gossips about her mom—she takes up for a woman she doesn’t even know. The gossip just can’t be true, so Raven decides to learn about her mom. Learning about mom brings her closer to love. Now Raven knows she can’t be entirely devoted to the man that has her heart until she learns why Charlene neglected her.
Mother’s and daughter’s path collide, Raven asks her mother two requests—two family secrets that can ruin both of their lives. Leading Charlene and Raven down the shadowy road of feeling like a “Miss Nobody.”
I received this as an e-book from the author, Nicole Dunlap, to read and review. Thanks goes to Nicole for allowing me this opportunity.
Nicole describes herself as “the gumbo genre novelist” – a little bit of everything! As a guidance counselor, she has “worked with teenagers with issues of abandonment and low self-esteem and took aspects from these beautiful teenagers’ identities and have seasoned my characters from Miss Nobody with them” (quotes courtesy of Ms Dunlap‘s website).
This book, being the first in a Family Saga, opens with 15 year-old Charlene Shaw making plans to run away from home after hearing an earth-shattering conversation between her mother and father – although we only come to learn of that conversation later in the book. She wants out of her small hometown and would like to make it big in Hollywood as an actress.
Charlene’s story parallels that of her daughter, Raven – the result of a sexual assault at the beginning of her journey to Hollywood – or so she thinks! Charlene deserts Raven when she is 6 months old in order to pursue her dreams of stardom determined not to allow anyone or anything to get in the way of the selfish pursuit of her dream. With Charlene’s parents not having heard from her for almost a year, a telephone call from an orphanage alerts them to the existence of Raven.
Throughout Charlene’s story, she is continually haunted by nightmares of her rapist, thoughts of Raven send chills through her, her best friend is murdered and a long-term relationship fails due to her feelings of unworthiness and fear of having more children. Charlene’s journey is one filled with guilt, sadness and self-hatred but ultimately she feels betrayed by God and sinks into a world of alcohol and prescription drugs.
On the other hand, Raven has had a very stable upbringing with her loving grandparents and although continually subjected to nasty comments and conversations about her mother by the local gossip-mongers in their small town, this has not deterred her from wanting to find out more about the mother who deserted her. As I’m sure any other young girl in her situation would probably feel, she has a lot of questions about her mother and with her grandparents unwilling to talk about her mother, sets off in search of the answers – with devastating consequences.
There is a thread of Christianity throughout the book, but it has more to do with the moral fibre of the characters rather than being an outright “Christian” read and, unlike many of the Christian fiction books out there which generally steer clear of anything sexual, Nicole has done a wonderful job of creating subtle sexual moments between the characters allowing the reader’s imagination to do the rest.
With the chapters alternating between Charlene and Ravens’ stories, and Ms Dunlap introducing us to a number of characters, at no time did I feel lost in confusion as to which character was being portrayed and I believe that it takes a skilful writer to be able to do this. There were a few places that seemed to be rushed and others where a bit more elaboration would have been appreciated but overall, for a first novel, Ms Dunlap has done a marvelous job.
Rape, guilt, incest, betrayal, secrets, lies and greed – all intertwine to create a salting of intrigue in a Family Saga that is bound to keep you turning the pages in an attempt to discover the answers. Unfortunately, as Family Sagas go, you will need to await the release of Ms Dunlap’s next book, Miss Scandalous, due to be released in 2013.