The Opposite Of Hallelujah
Imagine this. You're just about to start your junior year in
high school. For eight years it's been just you and your parents at
home. Now your father tells you that your sister is leaving the
convent where she has resided for eight years to come home. That is
the predicament faced by Caro, narrator of Anna Jarzab's The Opposite
Caro has had a hard time understanding and explaining Hannah's
decision to become a contemplative nun. When she was twelve she had
said Hannah was dead, sure her friends would never understand the
truth. "To them, nuns were old women who wore nude panty hose to hide
the varicose veins in their legs and seemed like they'd slap you with
a ruler as soon as look at you. Nuns were practically pre-historic,
and it didn't make any sense for my then twenty-three-year-old sister--
tall, thin, blond as Barbie--to be working on her fourth year at the
Sisters of Grace convent in Middleton, Indiana. But she was."
Four years later Caro still has trouble understanding and
explaining. She can't fake the happiness her parents expect her to
show. This sibling returning home is a stranger she hasn't seen in
"...What it might be like to shop with her, watch TV with her, argue
with her, laugh with her. How bizarre to have a sister and still be
an only child. How was I supposed know how to live with someone with
whom the only thing I shared was DNA?" Having no way to explain's
Hannah's reappearance, she puts off telling her friends. Then when a
collision between her home and peer worlds seems inevitable she spins
another lie, even knowing it will come back to haunt her.
Something is seriously wrong with the newly reappeared Hannah.
She sleeps through days and paces at night. She seems immobilized at
the prospect of applying for readmission to college or getting a job.
She barely eats a thing and is wasting away. But her parents, fearful
of pushing her into leaving again, won't push her to get help.
Could the unresolved tragic secret that impelled Hannah to seek
a religious life tear her from her family again in an even sadder way?
This book would be a wonderful read for young people who have
unexpected changes in their life circumstances. It would also make a
good read for parents, teachers, and--you guessed it--guidance
On a personal note, I can really relate to Caro. One summer when I
wasn't much older than her my mother took Harriet and me to spend a
summer in a lovely beach cabin at Fire Island. Once a week she went
by ferry to visit her elderly aunt. Then she surprised us by bringing
her home to our apartment. I think this aunt had Alzheimers. People
didn't talk about it then. With Mom in a highly stressful job and
Harriet struggling to complete her education, she became part of my
job description. Let me tell you, it is very difficult for a young
adult to be in charge of someone who can't remember who she is.
A great big shout out goes out to folks who have to deal with
unexpected life challenges and all who help them cope.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod