Monday, January 23, 2017

The Existence of Pity

31114539Growing up in a lush valley in the Andes mountains, sixteen-year-old Josie Wales is mostly isolated from the turbulence brewing in 1976 Colombia. As the daughter of missionaries, Josie feels torn between their beliefs and the need to choose for herself. She soon begins to hide things from her parents, like her new boyfriend, her trips into the city, and her explorations into different religions.

Josie eventually discovers her parents’ secrets are far more insidious. When she attempts to unravel the web of lies surrounding her family, each thread stretches to its breaking point. Josie tries to save her family, but what happens if they don’t want to be saved?

*May Contain Spoilers*

The Existence of Pity by Jeannie Zokan is a story of a family breaking apart and one girl's trials to keep them together while searching for herself. This novel is a coming of age story that allows Josie the chance to direct her own path, while trying to avoid the collateral damage her family's mistakes create. 

Josie is the daughter of missionaries, living in Columbia, South America. The book is set in the 1970s and focuses on Josie's discovery of her family's secrets and the aftermath they create. Josie is a faithful girl who believes in God and her parents mission, however, she's uncertain that the Baptist faith is the right one for her. Other religions intrigue her and she dearly wants to know more about them, but she feels oppressed by her parents in this regard. Josie is a brave, caring, and loving girl who tends to see the best in people. She's very thankful and loyal to those she loves. However, her personal struggles create tension in her familial relationships. Her parents seem to be very hard on her, for reasons I don't comprehend. They strongly dislike her interest in other religions as well as compare her to her older brother, often stacking the deck against her. Though she tries to look past their mistakes, her family doesn't offer her the same courtesy or attempt to understand what she's going through. I think readers will relate to this feeling of being misunderstood as well as her desire to find her own place in life and in faith. 

The plot of this book is like the climb at the beginning of a roller coaster, moving ever closer to the dropping point. It begins with Josie's older brother being shot, though the reader doesn't know why or how. Thus, the beginning of the rise of chaos as the novel flashes back to the start of it all. Though the novel only takes place over the course of one summer, many things happen and many secrets are revealed, taking the family closer to the edge. I don't want to give each secret away, but something about each family member is revealed which leads to a climax of extreme proportions. The very ideals of family, friendship, trust, and love are tested. Some bend, while others seem to break. Though full of sadness and upset, I enjoyed this book. It's entertaining, questioning, exploratory, and tackles some of the tough parts of growing up and finding the right path. However, the ending is a bit bittersweet as the reader gets to decide if anyone other than Josie learned anything from this one summer of shattering secrets. 

Rating: 4/5 Cups

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