Michelle Isenhoff

Keeping Safe the Stars, by Sheila O’Connor

KeepingSafe_FINAL.inddThis is a sweet, unhurried story that takes place in 1972. Pride Star, newly thirteen and the oldest of three siblings, lives with their grandfather, Old Finn. Except Old Finn left for the hospital and doesn’t come back. With just ten dollars in the cupboard, Pride tries her hardest to take care of her family. Old Finn taught them to be fiercely independent. To keep to themselves and never trust strangers. But as the days stretch longer and Old Finn is still away fighting encephalitis, she fears someone will call the county to take them away and put them in foster care.
This story is told against the backdrop of the Watergate scandal. Even as Nixon found himself encased in a web of lies, so does Pride. She’s only trying to do what’s best for her family, to keep them together and provided for. Eventually, she must acknowledge her deceit and seek help. But who to trust?
This one is rich with the cultural history of the 70’s (some of which I remember), that adds richness to the story and grounds it in reality. But the book never grabs me. The characters are okay. I do feel sympathy for Pride, and the other kids are likeable, but the story moves quite slowly. Especially the ending, that stretched about fifty pages beyond my attention span. O’Conner does provide some solid reasons for Old Finn’s reclusiveness—disagreement with Vietnam that attracts government attention as well as a desire to not call announce to the fact that an old man is raising and homeschooling three young children. He fears the county may take the children away and place them with someone younger. Someone female. His fears transfer to Pride, but sometimes I just rolled my head at her stubbornness. I guess this one just didn’t resonate with me.
I wouldn’t write it off, however. The writing is very lovely, and the story sound. It’s safe and low key—the kind of book my young nieces enjoy. But I prefer a bit more unpredictability and adventure. I’d rate it a solid three stars.
Find it on Amazon.

Keeping Safe the Stars, by Sheila O’Connor

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