When She Flew

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

This is my first book by Jennie Shortridge, though she has written a total of 4 and I've heard wonderful things about her other books. While When She Flew didn't blow me away, it was a nice read and good story.

When She Flew, a fictional story based on true events, is told in alternating narratives by two of the main characters. The third person narrative is used to tell the story from the viewpoint of Officer Jessica Villareal. A divorced woman in her late 30's, with a sadly distant relationship with her daughter and grandson, "Jess" devotes herself to her work as a police officer.

The second narrative is that of the child, Lindy, and is told in first person. Lindy has a fascination with birds, and one day while observing a blue heron in the woods where she lives, she is observed by a fellow bird watcher. Up until that point, Lindy had been living with her father, an Iraq war vet, who saved her from the care of her unstable mother, in the woods. The bird watcher reports the girl and the police start a search to find the child in the woods.

Officer Villareal joins in on the search and helps find the father and child. The officials decide the father and child should be separated so the child, Lindy, can be provided with safe shelter in a foster home. But Officer Villareal is then touched by the love she sees between the father and child so she takes matters into her own hands, breaks the rules, all to stand up for what she believes is best. What follows is the story of what Villareal does and the subsequent consequences.

The writing was, in general, engaging. For the first 100 pages, I wasn't sure if I'd really get into the story, but around that point I became hooked and wanted to read more. I definitely liked the first person narration of the young girl better of the two; hers seemed more genuine and less forced. The situation the characters found themselves in was intriguing, but I was somewhat disappointed with the ending. It wasn't bad, but it just seemed anti-climactic.

What I believe the author aimed for is a story about two different "women" (one woman and one girl) and how they each "flew" and took on a challenge or experienced something different. In that sense, the author accomplished her task and provided good female role models. I do think I would have liked the book better if the first part was shorter and the story lasted longer on the end and included a little more. But, in all, it was an enjoyable read that touched on some serious topics that may induce some interesting, and possibly heated, book club discussions!

*educational sidenote on the child welfare system*
I did want to add, however, that there were a couple things I found very inaccurate. I don't think it took away from the story, but as a professional in the field of child abuse, I tend to be sensitive about inaccuracies of the system. Now, keep in mind I only really know how Florida works, but if other states do, in fact, do these things, then they are waaaaaay behind the times.

For one, children do not arbitrarily have physical exams done (down there) to prove whether or not they've been sexually abused. How traumatic and barbaric! And even IF that really was done, the lack of anything there doesn't mean anything! In the MAJORITY of sexual abuse exams of children who have been sexually abused, there are NO findings. There are a lot of reasons for that and I won't get into that, but just keep that in mind. When the characters were in that situation I was thinking, "what?!!??"

The second thing is that the author chose to leave out child protective services from the story though they were integral to the situation. Again, I'm restricted to the knowledge of my state, but here law enforcement has zero say in what happens to a child protection-wise. They deal with only the criminal aspect. I'd be interested in learning more if this is not the case in other states.
*end of sidenote*


sumanam said...

Jenny, very nice and honest review. The book cover is wonderful and eye catching. I have never heard of this author,maybe I will check her out sometime.You are right though in such cases whether to decide a child should be placed in foster care or with her real parent , the ommision of child protective services is unusual.

Laughing Stars said...

I really enjoyed your honest and balanced review.

Jenny said...

Thanks (to both)! I try to keep it fair even if there are parts I don't care for. I did like this book overall, though.

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