Friday, January 17, 2014

The Book of Fred

Title: The Book of Fred Author: Abby Bardi Publisher:Atria Books Pages: 314 C: 2001

I really like this book- even more than I expected, actually. 15-year-old Mary Fred is taken into foster care while her parents, members of a religious cult, are tried for the wrongful deaths of her brothers. Having lived on "The Compound" and "The Outpost" all her life, Mary Fred is totally unprepared for the real world. Alice, her foster mother, is a mousy librarian who never got over her divorce from the father of Heather, her blue-haired rebel daughter. Heather also still struggles with her parents' divorce and hides behind an angry facade in order to cope. Add Alice's reclusive younger brother, Roy, into the mix and you get a rather unusual foster family for Mary Fred. 
Because she has never been allowed to watch TV, read books or newspapers, visit restaurants or stores, or wear any color other than brown, Mary Fred is lost in her new world. At first, Alice, Heather, and Roy are too lost in themselves to take much notice. Slowly, however, the four lost individuals come together and form their own family. When tragedy strikes, they slowly begin to come to terms with themselves.
When Mary Fred's mother returns from prison and attempts to reclaim Mary Fred into the cult, Mary Fred has to make a life changing decision.
I won't include spoilers, but this is not one of those predictable books where you pretty much know the ending from the beginning. It kept me guessing. Set against the backdrop of the doomsday predictions of Y2K, this book is an excellent character study, told in turns through the eyes of Mary Fred, Alice, Heather, and Roy. I was drawn to Mary Fred and her innocence. Bardi has drawn well-rounded characters- human and lovable, yet flawed. I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I highly recommend it.

Read this novel if... enjoy modern fiction enjoy stories about family are intrigued by religious cults and their followers

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