Blue Echohawk was abandoned by her drug-addicted mother as a toddler, left in the pickup truck ofan itinerant Native American woodcarver named Jimmy Echohawk. Jimmy did his best by her, telling her stories, teaching her to carve, and giving her the affection and attention she needed, but he didn’t – couldn’t – give her a normal family or a normal life.
When Jimmy died, Blue was placed with his half-sister, who cared for her more out of duty than love. Now, she’s nineteen, and finally about to graduate from high school, a tough, prickly survivor with a bad attitude who lets very few people close to her. But when she walks into her senior history class, she finds a young teacher, Darcy Wilson, who actually captures her interest and communicates something of his love for his subject to her. She starts to open up to him, and when his sister, who owns an art gallery, finds out about her sculptures and gives her a big break, she begins to find success as an artist, too.
After graduation, Blue’s friendship with Darcy continues – but is it possible that it could be more? Can she grow into the powerful, intelligent, capable woman she was always meant to be, even with everything that’s happened to her? And can she eventually find the strength to go back to her roots and discover who she really is?
This is a story that can break your heart and uplift it all at once. Blue and Wilson are beautifully-crafted characters – fully-realized, living, imperfect but beautiful human beings. Their relationship is deftly handled, with grace, sensitivity, and a clear emotional understanding. Minor characters are drawn with personality and verve (and I was happy to find out in the Author’s Note that there is a real Tiffa Snook, because she is absolutely delightful).
A Different Blue is filled with hopefulness; it is a story of survival and redemption which somehow manages to avoid too much preachiness or moralizing while retaining a deep sense of purpose. Small details – the toughness of mesquite wood, the blue color of a childhood blanket, the stories (Native American, European, and classical) that Blue and Darcy tell each other – resonate with symbolism and meaning. The author is also wise enough to leaven the serious emotional tone of the book with brightly humorous notes here and there, keeping the book from overloading the reader with its intensity.
There are very occasional flaws in the book, including the repeated use of the word “dye” instead of “die” in the phrase “the die is cast.” There are a number of near-Dickensian coincidences, too, especially at the end of the book, but nothing that an ordinary level of suspension of disbelief can’t handle.
All in all, though, this is a moving, warmhearted, and lively book, full of humor and charm, about a young woman’s coming of age after a difficult childhood. It is well worth a read, and I recommend it highly.
Reviewed by Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader