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Book Review: Sweet Misfortune by Kevin Alan Milne

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All of us have felt guilty at one time or another for something we’ve done to cause misfortune to another person. But imagine the guilt feelings of young Sophie Jones, her family’s sole survivor in a terrific automobile crash. In Sweet Misfortune, Sophie had been in the back seat of her family’s crushed Volvo. 

This innocent tyke feels she caused the violent accident by distracting her father who turned around to look at the message on her fortune cookie. Sophie, her father and mother, and her grandmother, were driving home after celebrating Sophie’s ninth birthday at an Oriental restaurant. Sophie loves to read the small slips of paper inside the fortune cookies.

In Sweet Misfortune, Ellen, the policewoman who finds orphaned Sophie grieving in the rain along a curb after the horrific accident, tries to console the young girl, telling her that what happened was not her fault. Nevertheless, innocent Sophie remains unconvinced. Oddly enough, officer Ellen is childless. She adopts young Sophie and bestows upon her the love her deceased family can no longer give her. Ellen’s love through the years, in many ways, helps Sophie adjust. But Ellen cannot eradicate Sophie’s lingering guilt.

As Sophie grows to womanhood, her attitude toward life, love, and any real dream of happiness, is very negative. She has opened a very successful chocolate shop where customers regularly buy her delicious wholesome homemade chocolate treats. Oddly, one of her best sellers is a Misfortune Cookie. This bitter tasting chocolate treat is barely edible because in many ways, Sophie believes it is a taste of the pessimistic elements in life that all of us face sooner or later. Sophie writes the misfortunes herself such as: Have patience; rainy days will soon return.

Sophie falls in love with a handsome young man and together, they make plans to marry. This is hardly conceivable for Sophie who feels happiness is a fleeting phantom of the imagination. To her misfortune, when her betrothed learns of Sophie's past misfortune as a young girl, he meets with her and abruptly tells her their wedding is off. That’s it: point blank — no explanation — no discussion.

Deeply depressed by this turn of events, Sophie is more convinced than ever that existence is exactly what she thought all along: life is dismal darkness; distrust; a disgusting dunghill of depression and doubt. So, one year later when her former suitor pays a call, Sophie will have nothing to do with him. He wants a chance to sit down and explain why he checked out before the wedding, But Sophie is a toughie; she wants nothing to do with this man or his hurtful excuses.

Does Sophie’s lover know something about the horrific accident twenty years past that he needs to share? Will Sophie ever give him the chance to explain? After all, why should she? And if given the chance, what could he possibly say that could even remotely change her downbeat attitude toward life and her resultant Misfortune Cookies?

The answer to this puzzle I will leave to readers of Sweet Misfortune. The title of this book may suggest it be taken lightly — a sweet sugarcoated romance story. WRONG. This tale is a satisfying read to keep any age engaged until page 270 of a 278 page book. As a former educator, in my mind, Sweet Misfortune would be very appropriate for high school students who often profess they know what life is all about, yet have experienced little of it. This tale will show them how fortunate they are.

Sweet Misfortune is more than just a fun read. Its story will stick with you because it is tragically sad at the beginning, but develops into a loving, hopeful, memorable tale most anyone could identify with. Most importantly, it is a tale that exemplifies the survival of the human spirit against terrible odds.

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