Verdict: BLUE SKY is a passionate, tender, starkly painful book about growing up in the shadow of abuse, addiction, and loss.
Three young women must struggle with adolescence and young adulthood after surviving the childhood trauma of their family’s breakdown and reformation.
In this second book in the Morrow Girls series, Nikki, Jackie, Mya, and Natalie Morrow are back together again, after years in foster care following their father’s abuse and their mother’s nervous breakdown. Their mother, Pecan, is trying to build a new life for herself and for them, with a kind and supportive new stepfather and two new sisters. But the traumatic events of their past can’t be evicted so easily, and the oldest girls have all felt the damage in different ways. Nikki, fostered by a minister and his wife, seeks solace in being the good, obedient, religious daughter, but her outwardly respectable life hides a bitter lie. Jackie, raped by her foster father, becomes the wild child, into parties, boys, alcohol and drugs. Mya, intelligent and reserved, is trapped in her resentment and anger over her father’s loss, and acts up in ways that threaten to destroy what might be a promising future. Can Pecan get her oldest three daughters back into the family fold, and keep them from self-destructing before it’s too late?
Before starting this book, it is wise to ensure that there are handkerchiefs handy. This is a heartbreaker, a wrenchingly painful book made far more powerful by its simple, straightforward style. No mawkish melodrama or over-sugared sentiment here, just stark, clear writing that hits like an arrow. For example, after saying “nothing” was wrong, Mya thinks, “See, something became nothing once you got used to it. And nothing and I knew each other well. It haunted my steps regardless of whether I was awake or asleep. It didn’t have a name or make a sound, but it was always there.” Every character is fully developed and fully realized, with motivations, thoughts, and behaviors that make complete sense given their backgrounds and perspectives. Each girl, and their mother, has her chance to speak, to give her point of view, to take the reader inside her mind and heart, and it is hard not to love them all and ache with them for their hurts, their bad luck and bad choices, different from each other though they are. Simmons does not hold back, showing with deft skill the brutal damage that foster care, abuse, addiction, poverty, and hopelessness can wreak on human lives, while neither reducing her characters to mere victims nor denying them their share of courage and strength. The result is difficult to watch, but impossible to look away from.
Before tackling this book, reading the previous book in the series, How To Knock A Bravebird From Her Perch, is probably advisable, though not strictly necessary. While BLUE SKY can certainly stand alone, there are stories from the first book that feed into this one. A sequel, How To Kill A Caged Bird, is promised in 2017.
BLUE SKY is a passionate, tender, starkly painful book about growing up in the shadow of abuse, addiction, and loss.