Summary: “The morning I died it rained. Poured down so hard it washed the blood off my face.”
Abandoned by her father when she was just five years old, Lori Jean's world consists of a weak-willed mother and an alcoholic stepfather who can't keep a steady job. When she uncovers a dark secret surrounding the fire in her family's small home, Lori Jean pays the ultimate price for her discovery...
Set in the 1950s rural South, Roseflower Creek is the story of ten-year-old Lori Jean whose short life and early death are woven into this affecting novel. Lori Jean recounts from Heaven the whirlwind of events leading up to her last day on earth, and through this heart-wrenching story comes a surprising tribute to our ability to heal and love -- despite the most difficult circumstances. -- Cumberland House
I have read a few very enjoyable (albeit very different) books by Jackie Lee Miles -- DIVORCING DWAYNE (my review) and COLD ROCK RIVER (my review.) So it was pretty much a no brainer that I wanted to read her novel ROSEFLOWER CREEK. ROSEFLOWER CREEK was actually Ms. Miles first published novel, but it is now being re-released by Sourcebooks.
From the book's description, I had a feeling that ROSEFLOWER CREEK wasn't going to be a light read; however, I had no idea how much of a punch this little book would pack. I'm talking a sucker punch in the gut that actually took my breath away -- over and over again. I hesitate to say that I enjoyed this book because it was so incredibly sad, but I can say that I'm very glad that I read it and I definitely appreciated Ms. Miles storytelling ability.
The story is written in the voice of 10 year old Lori Jean... who just happens to be dead. The book begins in a very graphic scene where it's clear to the reader that Lori Jean was beaten to death and then just left in Roseflower Creek. Remember, I told you this book is a heavy one! For the next 220 pages, Lori Jean tells her story, including what happened on the day of her death. She also gives some details about what took place after she died -- when she was looking down at her loved ones from Heaven.
Lori Jean is an absolutely wonderful character whose is just very, very special. Her heart is just huge, and I guarantee that you won't be able to forget her long after you've finished reading this book. I have no idea how she turned out as well as she did, but I think she managed to have some very special people pass through her life like her grandmother, her aunt and uncle, and her best friend. No matter how bad her life was, she was always praying that the next day would bring something better to her family. She never gave up hope!
Ms. Miles managed to capture Lori Jean's voice incredibly well. I thought most of her insight into life seemed authentic and age-appropriate for a ten year old girl; and I loved how she gave Lori Jean so much wisdom. I also thought that Ms. Miles captured the essence of the 1950s South. I loved her descriptions of the time period as well as the colorful cast of characters.
This book in incredibly sad not only because Lori Jean is killed. There are many other things that take place in this novel which alone would break your heart -- but when combined, just make you grateful for what you do have. However (and this is a big however), I finished this novel with a good feeling in my heart. Despite all of the awful things that happened to Lori Jean in her very short life, she never lost hope. And on top of that, she was able to accept people's faults and even forgive them. This book definitely had some very powerful messages in in!
I do recommend ROSEFLOWER CREEK for book clubs, and especially groups that might want to touch on the more spiritual aspects of this story. There is a reading group guide in the back of the book which lists 24 wonderful questions. Some of the themes that you might want to explore include abuse, alcoholism, grief, motherhood, prejudice, religion, secrets, hope, and the big one -- forgiveness. Without a doubt, there is a great deal to talk about between the pages of this novel.
I hope I haven't scared you with all the talk about how depressing this book is because ROSEFLOWER CREEK is definitely worth reading. It is a touching story but one that is guaranteed to change your heart.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy of this novel.