"A huge story thread in Burned and Smoke is physical abuse. It
is something I know personally, having lived in a physically abusive
relationship for three years...I should not have stayed as long as I
did, but like many women, I thought if I only did the right things, I
could fix him. It rarely works out that way."
Ellen Hopkins had crafted Burned as a stand alone novel.
Readers were not happy campers. They wanted to know what happened to
the characters they had come to care about. Fortunately for us,
Hopkins "caved" and wrote a sequel, a haunting and poignant volume
that draws heavily on her insider knowledge of abuse. Smoke is told
in the alternating voices of Pattyn and Jackie Von Stratton, the two
oldest daughters of a highly dysfunctional LDS (Latter Day Saints)
Pattyn has just shot her father in a storage shed on seeing him
beating Jackie. (He was also the cause of the death of her beloved
and their unborn baby). She is fleeing to California so she can see
the Pacific Ocean just once before she is arrested and jailed. Her
life takes a very unexpected turn when it becomes linked with that of
an outspoken, switchblade-yielding Latina and her family. Even as she
moves forward with a job, friendships, and the possibility of love,
guilt, memories, and what ifs haunt her.
Jackie's father had beaten her that fateful night because he had
discovered her in the shed with a young man, Caleb. It was obvious
that they have known each other in the Biblical sense of the word.
Daddy Dearest had refused to believe that what had taken place was
forcible rape. Unfortunately, he wasn't the only one. Their church
community has decided that what had gone down was consensual. Even
her mother refuses to let her press charges against Caleb. Might it
have to do with Caleb's lawyer dad's sudden interest in providing pro
bono professional help and emotional support to the new widow? And
guess who's coming for Thanksgiving dinner.
Hopkins ends the novel with a litany of very sobering statistics
regarding dating/spousal and child abuse. It's a topic we all need to
be thinking on. Burned (which I reviewed earlier) and Smoke give a
world of helpful insight as well as being exquisitely crafted can't-
On a personal note, 9/11 affected me in a new way this year. On all
the other anniversaries I'd given thought to the first responders who
had answered the very dangerous call to rescue their fellow human
beings and the families many had left behind. This year it felt more
personal. Many were firefighters like my son is now.
A great big shout out goes out to all the emergency rescue people who
we count on to be on the scene and adequately trained in times of need.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod