I really wanted to read this book... and I'll admit that part of it was the cover.
There's something lonely and soul-stirring about it. The cover of Into the Free features a single figure walking along a dirt road with fields on the side. It is a Southern environment, with flower blossoms around the edges. She is setting off into the unknown, shoulders squared, and she is carrying a heavy bag that weighs her down.
The other reason I knew I had to read this book was the reviews: I had heard that this book dealt with powerful themes. That Into The Free is the kind of book that helps you grow though the reading of it, that in this story you to meet people that never leave your memory, and that you will want to know both God and your fellow man better after your reading journey.
Those statements about this book are true.
Into The Free is the sort of book that leaves me asking "How does the author do that... how does she write so well that some parts of the book hurt to read, and some parts fill you with hope?"
What a gift Mrs. Cantrell has! When I opened the pages of this book, it was like opening the very door to Millie's world.
And Millie's world overwhelms me when I think about it: such a young girl navigating a youth of storm clouds and pitch-black swirling waters that threaten to drown her, the way they seem to drown her mother and father.
Millie loves her mother, and tries her hardest to love her father, but she is just a child and can't carry those burdens by herself! She can't understand what made her family the way it is.
A moment surrounded by joy and acceptance comes from the Gypsies that return to town every year. An old Babushka gypsy and a young man named River both draw Millie... and both have so much life in them. Their life spills over into Millie.
In the author's note, Julie Cantrell said that Into the Free was her love song to Mississippi. I found that fascinating. That is a perfect description of what she created when she wrote this book. A love song spun around a place and a time and a young girl living and growing... and most of all the process of healing.
Thank you to David C Cook Publishers, to Karen and Lisa, for sending me my copy to review!
How do I write a review for this book and keep it under five pages long? I find myself without words to express the treasures found on the pages of this novel and its sequel. I read this book, one I wouldn't normally pick out on my own, and it's written in first person point of view, which isn't my favorite, but I am so captivated by the life of this little girl, Millie, that I cannot put the book down. And when I do, all I can think about is her story. And when I sleep, I have dreams about this girl who is stuck in such a horrible life but is able to use her incredible imagination to pull herself into a better place.
This novel reminds me of To Kill a Mockingbird. The way it is written, the time period and even the setting. A girl who learns from watching, listening, reading, and uses all of that to make herself strong. The only way to do this review justice, I believe, is to share bits and pieces from it. Julie Cantrell has a magical way of writing and I want to share a taste of it with you.
Millie Reynolds grows up in difficult circumstances, an abusive father, and a mom who chooses to stay with him. Through all the questions that go through this little girls mind after watching the beatings her father dishes out to her mom, and watching her mom stay put, Millie stays strong and remembers the good. The good like her Mother's love.
"That's the other thing I believe without a doubt. That Mama loves me. Always. Not just in spring, when things are golden bright, and the stars fall to her feet, but all year round. Even when the heavens tease her. I knew it then, as I know it now. Mama loves me even as she is falling apart." -chapter 8
She thinks back to before it got so bad. "That was a time when miracles were as real to me as the coins in my pocket. Tangible, solid little orbs that slid between my fingers."- chapter 26
Yet, life throws her one horrible tragedy after another. She survives each one, but has a hard time believing her mama's God doesn't have it out for her. Each time it gets harder and harder to have faith, but she still looks for it and yearns for it. "When I finally release my fear, I feel as though I'm in that old safe place again, sitting in the bends of Sweetie's branches, connecting to a powerful force. All-knowing." Chapter 30 (Sweetie is the name of her special tree she grew up climbing in.)
Millie is brought into a place where she can feel God's very presence. "For years, I have searched and searched for this God. This feeling of complete love and acceptance. He was always out of reach. But here, where food is scarce, money is tight, heat is heavy, and tensions should run high, God is everywhere."
Then another real life nightmare attacks. After everything, and all of her searching, more scars are layered upon the others in her heart. "But here's the truth. I also don't want to feel afraid for the rest of my life. I don't want to live around my scars. I don't want to be a victim. Not one second more. I want control of my own life. I'm tired of the fear."
I have many more quotes marked that I would like to share, but this review is already much longer than my average one. And I don't want to share too much of the book. But this story of a girl, as she grows up through horrendous situations and still searches for God is just an amazing, heart touching story.
There is romance. There is mystery. Some parts are suspenseful. It is historical. But most of all it is moving. This book will stay with me, Millie's story will stay with me. And whenever someone asks how there can be a loving God through all the pain in this world, I will be reminded of this girl's story. And her story does not end with this book. The sequel holds more for her to learn and grow. Just like in life, things hit us, and we must continue on. How we do so is our choice.
Note: I received a complimentary copy for an honest review of this book from bookfun.org for my honest opinion.www.TMWoodsBooks.com/blog. The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility. Also follow me on Twitter @TMWoodsBooks, FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/TMWoodsBooks.
Just a girl. The only one strong enough to break the cycle.
In Depression-era Mississippi, Millie Reynolds longs to escape the madness that marks her world. With an abusive father and a "nothing mama," she struggles to find a place where she really belongs.
For answers, Millie turns to the Gypsies who caravan through town each spring. The travelers lead Millie to a key that unlocks generations of shocking family secrets. When tragedy strikes, the mysterious contents of the box give Millie the tools she needs to break her family's longstanding cycle of madness and abuse.
Through it all, Millie experiences the thrill of first love while fighting to trust the God she believes has abandoned her. With the power of forgiveness, can Millie finally make her way into the free?
Saturated in Southern ambiance, Julie Cantrell has created Into the FreeÃ¢â¬ânow a New York Times Best SellerÃ¢â¬âa story that will sweep you away long after the novel ends.
This novel is absolutely amazing. It took my breath away to think that one person could handle this much abuse and survive. The secrets she hides because she is ashamed of her past is just so sad and just broke my heart to read about. When she experiences her first love I couldn't help but cheer for her and want the best for her. And when she discovers why her life is the way it is, she desperately needs God on her side to help her break the cycle of abuse and sin in her family.
Cantrell wrote a novel that will shed light into the human condition, and if you've even walked a mile in Millie's shoes, I recommend this book as a work that will greatly encourage the healing process. Quite surprisingly, I understood Millie's point of view more than I ever thought possible. I wanted to reach out to her somehow and tell her that with God's love everything that ever went wrong in her life could be salvaged and she could be free form her past forever. A wonderful story of the power of forgiveness, and what it means to come out of the other side.
This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review.
Into the Free is a story that draws you into the life of Millie, the main character. A book you do not want to put down. A story of heartbreaking tragedies, abuse, faith and love. People that crossed her path who live a life totally different from hers and how she was drawn to them. I love the way Julie Cantrell writes. A gifted author. A great book. Also read the sequel When Mountains Move. "Great".
Received the book free from David C. Cook through bookfun.org for my honest opinion and review