Into the Free: A Novel leaps into the life of Millicent Reynolds, a young Mississippi girl at the end of the Depression. Milli's father, Jack, is a violent, alcoholic, rodeo man whose wife has turned to morphine to survive the abuse. Milli and her mother live in old slave quarters on a plantation, surviving on Jack's winnings and the money they earn from doing laundry for the wealthy in town, Milli and her mother eek out an existence. Milli befriends a group of gypsies, intending to leave with them, but stops when her father almost beats her mother to death.
The perverse air of melancholia that permeates Milli's life makes the this novel difficult to begin, but hooks the reader with Milli's desire to pull herself out of the abusive circle. As Milli turns to people for help, Milli learns to see through facades to discover true meaning of Christianity and love, where money and appearance are not important. Intense book, not for the faint hearted, but a highly rewarding read.
Into the Free is written by Julie Cantrell and published by David C. Cook.
As you read this book you can't help but love Millie Reynolds. Her character is what made this book a joy to read. The story follows Millie as she learns who she really is and what she wants her future to be. You watch her character grow as you follow her through the tragedy and laughter that is her story.
It is a well written book and you can't wait to turn the page to see where the story takes you next. The scenery is well described and the plot is well developed. Overall it was a good book and I really enjoyed reading it.
I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the copy of this book I enjoyed reading. I gave an honest review based on my opinion of what I read.
A powerful story of forgiveness & renewed strength
March 8, 2012
Into the Free by Julie Cantrell is a compelling read which will have you crying out for someone to help young Millie before all hope is destroyed. Her real name is Millicent, a name her abusive father believes aptly describes her because, in his eyes, she isn't even worth a cent. Throughout her childhood, Millie will live in fear of the days his truck will speed up the drive, meaning he's back from the rodeo, and if her mother is in one of her "dark spells," soon Jack's anger will explode in violence. The young girl's stability and protection seems to come from their neighbor, Sloth, and her hiding place in the sweet gum tree. Then Sloth dies, her mother slips further and further into the pain numbing world of drugs, and Millicent grows up feeling isolated and hopeless.
This book has so many contradictions between what is and what should be that you could talk about those oxymorons for hours. Her mother has been totally abandoned by her own parents, the Reverend and Mrs. Applewhite, even when they know how desperate her life is. Millie has always seen her father as a monster, but when she finally has the courage to follow him to the rodeo, she finds a man who is respected for his talent and who is liked for his good nature. How can the two be the same man? And her mother is the biggest oxymoron of all. She holds tight to her faith in God, can quote almost any Bible verse, yet she buries all her pain with the shot of the needle, leaving Millicent to tread alone. Then later in the story, when sixteen year old Millie is truly an orphan, her godly grandparents deny her, the goody-goodies of the town suspect her Choctaw heritage, and the upstanding banker who takes her into his family assaults her, leaving the young girl to question God's existence. She cries out to challenge Him and to rant against His absence, especially after her brutal attack. But the destructive forces cannot defeat Millicent and she'll find God's true presence as she accepts offers of unconditional love and comes to understand the power of forgiveness which delivers her Into the Free. Julie Cantrell's website includes insightful discussion questions, ones to be considered even if you read the book alone and not with a book club. Cantrell does include a spoiler alert to not read the discussion questions before finishing the book. I welcome a Christian fiction writer who tackles tough topics, who does not sugar coat our faith, and who is willing to point out the destructive effects of those who hide behind empty beliefs. I hope Cantrell continues to write in this vein.
I received an advanced readers copy of this title for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own. I did not receive any compensation for this review.
I loved this coming-of-age story! The writing is lyrical. It's the first from Julie Cantrell; I'm certain we'll hear more from her.
Written in the first-person point of view of Millie, a nine-year-old Mississippi girl who experiences the underbelly of life, and therefore becomes an "old soul" as described by her mother. The reader peeks into Millie's frustrating life with an abusive father and a "nothing mama." Family secrets offers some comfort along with more pain as they are revealed. Millie grows into a young lady of seventeen, relying on comfort from a sweet gum tree she names "Sweetie." From her perch in the upper branches, she hides and observes. She believes that she is alone in a Godless world.
Note: Reader's Guide included, along with an interview with the author.
Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and David C. Cook for my copy.