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Middle Grade Fiction 129
Dealing with Parental Depression and Abandonment
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West of the Sea takes an unflinching look at children who must grow up too fast and be strong for a parent who suffers from severe depression. Haven and her sister, Margie, have learned to take on a lot of responsibility around the house and keep cheerful around their momma in the year since her grandparents died suddenly.
Haven’s life gets turned upside down when she sees her momma not looking human right before she disappears. Then during her desperate search for her, she discovers she may not be human either. I was a bit surprised that for a Middle-Grade novel, this book didn’t pull any punches on the hardships of experiencing parental abandonment and adult depression. It even had a police officer tell them that Momma may have run off with a lover.
Rye is new to town and volunteers his father’s coffee truck as the vehicle to use in the search for her Momma. Margie has her permit license and is convinced to take a highly illegal trip down to the Gulf of Mexico to find answers. Rye is a gem in this story. He sees Haven’s transformation and is supportive every step of the way. He adds a bit of levity and a buffer for Haven and all the family secrets that come out during this trip.
In this Coming-of-Age story, Haven and her family learn to be truthful with all their closely held secrets. I appreciated Margie facing her Momma about the depression and demanding she seek therapy. She demanded better from her mother and explained to her how it hurt her children that she ran off and she was unwilling to return to the status quo of tiptoeing around her. The amount of bravery it would take to confront the issue head-on was inspiring.
Overall, this tale is better suited for a more mature audience. It has the potential to help children going through similar circumstances to find their bravery and know it could be all right. It also has fantastical elements that make for a unique twist to the need-to-find momma quest. I listened to this as an audiobook and the author as the narrator did a fantastic job capturing Haven's emotions.
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