"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
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Jasmine, by April McGowan
She survived her past but how can she face it?
Jasmine is a survivor. She's lived through the abuse of her father, running away at age fourteen, living on the streets, and now she counsels at risk young women giving them a second chance at life.
But when her mother dies, can she go home again and face the past she's forced herself to forget for the last twenty years? Or will the past she's now forgotten take over her present once again?
Why Me? by Sarah Burleton
In the blink of an eye, Mom ran up behind me and pushed me into the fence. Instinctively, I reached out my arms to stop my fall and ended up grabbing the live fence. My hands clamped around the thin wires, and my body collapsed to the ground as the electricity coursed through it. I opened my eyes and saw my mother standing over me with the strangest smile on her face. “Oh, my God, I’m going to die!” I thought in panic.
Imagine never being able to close your eyes and remember the feel of your mother’s arms wrapped around you. Now imagine closing your eyes and remembering your mother’s tears splashing down on your face as she is on top of you, crying as she is trying to choke you to death.
My mother left me these memories and many more during my traumatic childhood. After many years of struggling with trying to understand “Why Me?” I took back control of my life and started saying, “It was me, now what am I going to do?” The answer is my book, “Why Me?”. It is my childhood journey through the terrors of physical and mental abuse from first grade until the day I moved out. It is my way of letting the world know what was really going on behind closed doors.
Damaged: The Heartbreaking True Story of a Forgotten Child, by Cathy Glass
Although Jodie is only eight years old, she is violent, aggressive, and has already been through numerous foster families. Her last hope is Cathy Glass. At the Social Services office, Cathy (an experienced foster care) is pressured into taking Jodie as a new placement. Jodie's challenging behavior has seen off five careers in four months. Despite her reservations, Cathy decides to accept Jodie to protect her from being placed in an institution.
Jodie arrives, and her first act is to soil herself, and then wipe it on her face, grinning wickedly. Jodie meets Cathy's teenage children, and greets them with a sharp kick to the shins. That night, Cathy finds Jodie covered in blood, having cut her own wrist, and smeared the blood over her face.
As Jodie begins to trust Cathy her behavior improves. Over time, with childish honesty, she reveals details of her abuse at the hands of her parents and others. It becomes clear that Jodie's parents were involved in a sickening pedophile ring, with neighbors and Social Services not seeing what should have been obvious signs.
Unfortunately Jodie becomes increasingly withdrawn, and it's clear she needs psychiatric therapy. Cathy urges the Social Services to provide funding, but instead they decide to take Jodie away from her, and place her in a residential unit. Although the pedophile ring is investigated and brought to justice, Jodie's future is still up in the air. Cathy promises that she will stand by her no matter what -- her love for the abandoned Jodie is unbreakable.
Will You Love Me?: The story of my adopted daughter Lucy, by Cathy Glass
The eleventh memoir and latest title from the internationally bestselling author and foster caregiver, Cathy Glass. This book tells the true story of Cathy’s adopted daughter Lucy.
Lucy was born to a single mother who had been abused and neglected for most of her own childhood. Right from the beginning Lucy’s mother couldn’t cope, but it wasn’t until Lucy reached eight years old that she was finally taken into permanent foster care.
By the time Lucy is brought to live with Cathy she is eleven years old and severely distressed after being moved from one foster home to another. Withdrawn, refusing to eat and three years behind in her schooling, it is thought that the damage Lucy has suffered is irreversible.
But Cathy and her two children bond with Lucy quickly, and break through to Lucy in a way no-one else has been able to, finally showing her the loving home she never believed existed. Cathy and Lucy believe they were always destined to be mother and daughter – it just took them a little while to find each other.
Mummy Told me not to Tell, by Cathy Glass
When Reece arrives at Cathy's door aged 7 years old, he has already passed through the hands of four different care givers in four weeks. As the details of his short life emerge, it becomes clear that to help him, Cathy will face her biggest challenge yet.
The latest title from the author of Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller Damaged. Reece is the last of six siblings to be fostered. Having been in care for four months his aggressive and disruptive behavior has seen him passed from caregiver to caregiver. Although only 7, he has been excluded from school, and bites people so often that his mother calls him 'Sharky'.
Cathy wants to find the answers for Reece's distressing behavior, but he has been sworn to secrecy by his mother, and will not tell them anything. As the social worker prepares for the final hearing, he finds five different files on Reece's family, and is incredulous that he had not been removed from them as a baby. When the darkest of family secrets is revealed to Cathy, Reece's behavior suddenly starts to make sense, and together they can begin to rebuild his life.
The Night the Angels Came, by Cathy Glass
When Cathy receives a call about a terminally ill widower terrified of leaving his son all alone in the world, she is wracked with sadness and indecision. Can she risk exposing her own young children to a little boy on the brink of bereavement?
Eight year old Michael is part of a family of two, but with his beloved father given only months to live and his mother having died when he was a toddler, he could soon become an orphan. Will Cathy’s own young family be able to handle a child in mourning? To Cathy’s surprise, her children insist that this boy deserves to be as happy as they are, prompting Cathy to welcome Michael into her home.
A cheerful and carefree new member of the family, Michael devotedly prays every night, believing that when the time is right, angels will come and take his Daddy to be with his Mummy in heaven. However, incredibly, in the weeks that pass, the bond between Cathy’s family, Michael and his kind and loving father Patrick grows. Even more promising, Patrick is looking healthier than he’s done in weeks.
But just as they are settling into a routine of blissful normality, an unexpected and disastrous event shatters the happy group, shaking Cathy to the core. Cathy can
Keep Quiet, by Susan Scottoline
New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award winning author Lisa Scottoline is loved by millions of readers for her suspenseful novels about family and justice. Scottoline delivers once again with Keep Quiet, an emotionally gripping and complex story about one man’s split-second decision to protect his son - and the devastating consequences that follow.
Jake Buckman’s relationship with his sixteen-year-old son Ryan is not an easy one, so at the urging of his loving wife, Pam, Jake goes alone to pick up Ryan at their suburban movie theater. On the way home, Ryan asks to drive on a deserted road, and Jake sees it as a chance to make a connection. However, what starts as a father-son bonding opportunity instantly turns into a nightmare. Tragedy strikes, and with Ryan’s entire future hanging in the balance, Jake is forced to make a split-second decision that plunges them both into a world of guilt and lies. Without ever meaning to, Jake and Ryan find themselves living under the crushing weight of their secret, which threatens to tear their family to shreds and ruin them all.
Powerful and dramatic, Keep Quiet will have readers and book clubs debating what it means to be a parent and how far you can, and should, go to protect those you love.
Crying for Help: The Shocking True Story of a Damaged Girl with a Dark Past, by Casey Watson
Two weeks after saying farewell to her first foster child, Casey is asked to look after Sophia, a troubled 12-year-old with a sad past. Sophia’s actions are disturbing and provocative and, before long, Casey and her family find themselves in a dark and dangerous situation.
Two years ago Sophia’s mother had a terrible accident. Sophia has been in care ever since.
Right away, Casey feels something isn’t right. Sophia’s a well-developed girl, who looks more like 18 than 12. She only seems to have eyes and ears for men, and treats all women with contempt and disgust. And she has everyone around her jumping through hoops.
Over time, as more details begin to emerge about Sophia’s past, it becomes clear that her behavior is a front for an early life filled with pain and suffering. But although Casey feels she is gradually breaking through to Sophia and getting her to open up about things she has never spoken about before, her violence is threatening the safety of the whole family, forcing Casey to question whether she can really handle this lost and damaged girl.
Both shocking and inspiring, this true story will shed new light on the extreme and sometimes dangerous nature of foster care.
Wreath, by Judy Christie
What do you do when you’re too young to be on your own but have no one to turn to? Sixteen-year-old Wreath Willis makes a list: Find a place to live. Buy cheap food. Finish high school. Get a job. Go to college.
Now she’s finishing high school by day and squatting in a junkyard by night, flying below the authorities’ radar while she makes a few awkward friends and searches for an illusory “good life.” But when a teacher grows too suspicious, Wreath is afraid she’ll have to move on before she graduates. Could it be this was a good life?
Forgotten: Seventeen and Homeless (Secrets), by Melody Carlson
With absent parents, overdue rent, and no one to turn to, Adele is forced into the hard, cold world of homelessness. While striving to maintain the pretense of a “normal” life, Adele attempts to finish high school, all the while concealing her secret. But is she strong enough to keep up the act?
Forgotten will propel teen readers into a world where promises are broken, life is not fair, and challenges seem unbearable, while still offering assurance that solid faith, loyal friends, and a persistent spirit will prevail.