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.
Into the Free was an intense story, but I loved it and was pulled into the story and into the characters' lives. The portrayal of their hardship was very realistic in that many abused children feel exactly the same way that Millie did. I appreciated that because so often people don't understand that abused children get a bit freaked out by loving families.
Having worked with foster children for almost two decades, I saw this scenario often. Those same children are also very loyal to their own families, twisted as they might be. They are always waiting for the other ball to drop and to be hurt again. Too often that is exactly what happens. And they are drawn to the dark, dangerous types of boys. Many of those men start out amazing but once a girl is in a relationship with them, they are trapped. I felt really bad for the gypsy boy, River, because I do believe he sincerely loved Millie, but one never knows where that intense emotional stuff will lead, good or bad. In fact, her life often reflected the savagery of the dog that ate her own pups. I loved that metaphor and many of the other metaphors used in the story.
At any rate, I adored this author's voice, and the way she wasn't afraid to show the ugliness of life in all of it's authenticity, including how people perceive things who have been wounded. Faith isn't about dressing up on Sunday and sitting nicely in a pew. Not all Christians are white, though southern preachers in those days very well may have tried to present it that way. I agreed with Millie when it came to the hypocrisy she saw. I don't think God cares about that. What He wants is our hearts and He will use everything and anything to bring us to Him. This story showed that well.
Into the Free also showed strength and determination from a girl only used to seeing passivity, weakness, and neglect. Unfortunately, many women think they must stay and bear the brunt of the man's abuse. The strongest thing Millie's mom ever did was not to take him back after that last time where he nearly killed her. I understood the rage Millie felt toward her mom's depression. So well done!
The Sloth character was great, but I also found it a bit disconcerting how she "saw" him even after she died. Then again, I can see a wounded child like Millie looking for comfort and security anywhere, even if she imagines it and believes it is real. When Sloth passed, she lost her best friend and the one person who seemed to care about her. The story was sad, but empowering at the same time. I like deep reads like this because they make me think about life, faith, and real love.
I find survivor stories empowering. I didn't feel like anything was over-the-top. In real life, God doesn't always intervene. Most of the time, He doesn't. But He holds us when we hurt and carries us through. This story shows how anyone can survive and change the direction of their life. Even the most wounded people can still find God. There were many nuggets of truth in this novel that were an integral part of Millie's coming of age and her faith journey. I can see this book as a classic and I think it would make a great movie! Anyway, it's making my favorites list. It's fantastic!