Never underestimate the hearing or imagination of a child. The understanding of what they do hear and perceive is often based on television, movies, and gossip among other children. When the information they overhear is outside their experience, they often will just fill in the blanks as they see fit, sometimes underestimating the situation, but just as often making it even more scary and bizarre.
In Closed Doors by Lisa O’Donnell, we meet eleven-year-old Michael Murray. There are many things going on in his life, both at school and at home. Hi nemesis at school is Dirty Alice as he likes to refer to her. She is always bothering him. He also has to prepare himself for the upcoming talent show. Yet it is his home life that has taken an appalling turn. He often listens at doors for information because his parents feel he is too young to know about grownup things.
When his mother comes home upset and crying with bruises on her face, he suddenly hears a secret he is not ready for. He doesn’t really understand the words, but he knows that the very worst has happened. What exactly does that mean though?
When the whispers begin both at home and elsewhere, he wonders if there is more going on than he has already heard. The problem is who does he ask what the words mean? His life is no longer what he remembers. People seem to think that his father is a bad guy, and suddenly Alice, his one true enemy has changed. How does he get his life back?
O’Donnell has taken the unimaginable and brought it to the forefront of everyday life. To take the terrible things that happen to people and create such an atmosphere of disarray in the life of a family, who is only struggling to cope, brings starkness to the challenges of crimes against women. To confront the situation is often overwhelming for the victim, but through the eyes of a child you see a whole different view. Without an understanding of the nature of the occurrence, the fear and concern can careen out of control. Yet life on the outside does not slow down and abate, it just mixes in with the fear, making the lives of those involved spiral out of control.
The characters are so real and the town so much like ones where we all live; the author has given us a story very close to home.
If you enjoy the interaction of small towns, mysteries, romance, and secrets you will enjoy this work. It would be a great book for a reading group with so many directions to create dialogue. The phrase “little pitchers have big ears,” is only the tip of the iceberg in this heartfelt story.
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