Tears of the Phoenix centers around three families — the Carillos, the Dentons, and the Alberts. Each family has a son around the same age (10) who is considered an outcast at school. After they find each other, strong friendships are formed and their lives begin to blossom. They become like the Three Musketeers and are always together. Each boy faces difficult family issues and their reliance on each other is most evident as the world tries to make them grow up too fast.
Set in the early 1970s in a small town, Tears of the Phoenix revolves around many social issues including the Vietnam War, domestic violence, and sexuality. A central theme of this book involves the relationships between fathers and sons. Each of the boys has a very different kind of relationship with his father. The author does an excellent job of depicting how the presence or absence of a male role model can greatly affect a boy.
I find it very hard to believe this is author Lonnie Beerman’s first novel. This work is incredible on so many levels. He portrays life in a small town very well, making it seem that everyone knows everyone else. The dialogue and the interactions between the characters are touching and emotional. In fact, they are so realistic, I actually cried a few times.
Also incorporated into the plot are family secrets and the various methods the characters use to cope with them. Religion is used throughout the book as a message to remind people that it is not their place to judge others.
Tears of the Phoenix by Lonnie Beerman is an awesome book that will touch every reader’s heart. The diversity of the characters and the insight provided into their backgrounds will likely create a strong connection with each reader.
Adult females will love this story from an emotional standpoint. Many males will be able to relate to the boys as they approach adolescence. Younger readers (ages 10 to 16) would enjoy this book but parents should be aware there are some adult situations in the story that younger children may not be ready to handle.
(Reviewed by Leslie Granier for Reader Views)