"Jasmine," April McGowan's debut fiction set in Portland, Oregon is a narrative of inspiration forged in the fires of abuse, homelessness and sex trafficking. Her character-driven story reveals the depths of the Father's love for the "most broken and hurting," who by God's grace find the courage to escape victimization on the streets. Although the story is fiction the facts behind the story are heartbreaking (note statistics link at review's end).
Readers first meet Jasmine, now known as Jazz, in her role as counselor for "at-risk young women." She's waiting for Officer Banner to finish his rape interview with Misty, a teen she had recently placed in a group home. Exhausted from too many calls like this, Jazz slid down the wall to rest on the floor, back against the wall, arms on her knees, lost in dark memories of her own life on the streets.
She was fourteen when she ran away from home and Misty reminded her of herself. Only she had run away to the carnival gypsy lady she worked for over the summer. She knew Fiona would keep her safe and protect her. When Fiona died about a year later Jazz left the carnival for the streets of Olympia. She knew all too well what had happened to Misty. That had been her life until she met Brandi, a counselor and mentor who helped her get off the streets and encouraged her to go to school.
Now a trained counselor in her mid-thirties working with girls like she once was Jazz still lived with heart-pounding fear when she closed her door at night. In spite of years of counseling, training and education she continued to check under the bed and test the door and window locks before she felt safe enough to sleep. Although Jazz feels like she's been healed, God knows she's not and He has a plan for her that begins with her notification of her mother's death.
Join Jazz on her journey into the past where she must confront her fears and come to terms with the loved ones left behind when she returns to a town who believes she died from drowning. From her childhood friend Tim, now the attorney of her mother's estate who still loves her, to her sister Lily who refuses to talk to her, to her brother who believes God will help her even though she no longer believes God exists for her.
McGowan's well-developed characters honestly portray the cost of abuse and victimization on the streets few escape from. It's a tale of hope, restoration and budding trust wrapped in God's love and grace.
Lesley McDaniel asked why McGowan wrote about homeless youth and victimization when she interviewed her. She said she wanted readers to see "the homeless hurting women and children" as real people the world usually ignores because of their shabby dress and haunted eyes. Jasmine's story does that and more and is not a book to miss. McGowan supports Portland Oregon's Shepherd's Door and their work with the homeless and the addicted and Door to Grace in their work with sex trafficking victims.
National Runaway Safeline (1-800-RUNAWAY) shocking statistics reports between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away each year due to parental conflict, physical and sexual abuse and some are even told to leave. Youngsters living on the streets, alone and defenseless, become prey for sex traffickers, open to physical and sexual abuse.
"Jasmine, a Novel" by April McGowan, Whitefire Publishing, 2013, 300 Pages, 978-1939023087, $14.99
Midwest Book Reviews: April 2014
FaceBook: Gail Welborn