I was immediately drawn into Jacquelyn Mitchard’s book Cage of Stars because it was a child narrator telling the story. I actually love to read books that speak from the place of innocence. The story begins from the end (sort of) through the prologue. We see a young girl hounded by reporters about why she had done what she did. Then, the story begins.
Ronnie is a 12 year old girl that witnessed the death of her two sisters by a man who is described as schizophrenic. As the three girls played hide and seek, Early Scott walks in into the garden and slits their throats while Ronnie hid in the garden shed. This of course became a huge scar for Ronnie and a trauma she lived with for years.
This incident changes her family forever as life becomes a drag for them. Though Ronnie’s mother has two more children after the incident, it does not erase the pain quickly. The depression felt by her mother Cressie, made Ronnie grow up so fast and she begins to run the affairs of the home. She takes on this huge responsibility that she keeps burying her grief. It is possible to hide grief with work and responsibilities that people see you as okay. Ronnie’s parents had no idea how much of grief, pain and hurt Ronnie buried inside her.
This whole tale also revolves around faith as Ronnie and her family are Mormons. The book does well in showing how their faith plays a huge part in their lives and influences their decisions. In fact, their whole lives revolved around their faith. The author does well in painting a perfect picture of the adverse effects of grief. I was moved by the way Ronnie describes her sisters as they lay in their coffins. The trauma of Ronnie watching her sisters grow cold on the floor is not an imagery I will quickly forget in this book.
However, the plot though moves slowly and sometimes the descriptions become boring with the author’s attempt to explain everything, but we are able to follow Ronnie’s growth. Soon it was time to prepare for college and just move along with life then the court announces that Early Scott needed to be dealt with in a compassionate way, knowing that his illness was the major cause of his actions. Ronnie at this point was angry. While still coming to terms with the ‘unreasonable’ way the court handled the case, Ronnie is given another blow. Her parents were choosing to forgive Early Scott.
This book is quite interesting but the execution of the story could have been better. I loved the love story between Miko and Ronnie and enjoyed Claire’s relationship with Ronnie. There is a probability you get bored with Ronnie’s character because she really doesn’t do anything much to arouse interest except with her poor plans to execute vengeance.
In all, when you read this book, you learn lessons. You learn that grief is a dicey stage that can make one stronger or weaker. The process is different for everyone. You learn that forgiveness is not for the other person but for your own wellbeing. You learn that forgiveness is one of the hardest feelings to process. The book exposes you to innocence, makes you question what justice really is and in whose hands true justice lies. You ask yourself, what you would have done if you were in the same predicament. You then realise that in times of deep grief, the people we love tend to be strong support systems. But, until you decide to stand up, you just remain down.
Overall, it is a good book. I would not say it will be inscribed on my wall of fame for exciting books but I won’t forget the story in a hurry. Good one, Mitchard.