Sunday, October 21, 2012
Update: One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
In the wake of heart-breaking betrayal, Carley Connors is thrust into foster care and left on the steps of the Murphys, a happy, bustling family.
Carley has thick walls and isn't rattled easily, but this is a world she just doesn't understand. A world that frightens her. So, she resists this side of life she'd believed did not exist with dinners around a table and a "zip your jacket, here's you lunch" kind of mom.
However, with the help of her Broadway-obsessed and unpredictable friend, Toni, the Murphys do the impossible in showing Carley what it feels like to belong somewhere. But, when her mother wants her back, will she lose the only family she has ever known?
In One for the Murphys, 12 year old Carley was repeatedly told by her mother to never cry, or people would think she is weak. This admonishment makes Carley's life in foster care very difficult.
Now, Carley has closed herself off from feeling any real emotion, covering up her hidden feelings with a smart mouth, a mouth that provoked her stepfather enough to badly beat both Carley and her mother. But in foster care with the Murphys, Carley may have met her match in Mrs. Murphy. Mrs. Murphy is the exact opposite of Carley real mother, in fact, she seems to be an almost too good to be true wife and mother, and she refuses to give up on Carley, no matter what Carley's says or how badly Carley acts out - and there is some pretty (understandably) bad acting out at times. Turns out, Mrs. Murphy has a secret that just may to the trick.
One of the themes in One for the Murphys is about heroes. The youngest Murhpy boy is obsessed with superheroes, so much so that he has a sign hanging in his bedroom (where Carley now sleeps) that says Be Someone's Hero. But not all heroes need super powers to be someone's hero, and this idea becomes a theme that runs throughout the novel and a constant sad reminder to Carley that she does not have a hero in her life and secretly wants one - very badly.
Hunt's characters are well done, having both dimension and personality. Mr. Murphy is a fire fighter and away from home much of the time, leaving his wife with lots of time to focus on Carley. Unlike his wife, he is not really happy to have a foster child in his home; the eldest boy resents Carley, but the younger two rather like her. And it is Carley who teaches her friend Toni, obsessed with the play Wicked, to not judge a person based on appearances, throwing the message of Wicked right back at Toni. They are all realistically drawn and likable in their own way.
Of course, at the heart of the novel is Carley's inner emotional struggle. Though she still loves her mother, she must face the fact that her mother may have played a part when she was beaten by her stepfather. Carley knows that she will go back to her mother and she must come to terms with the fact that her mother is never going to be the kind of mother Mrs. Murphy is. It's a tall order for a young girl.
One for the Murphs is Lynda Mullaly Hunt's first MG novel, and it turns out to be one of those middle grade books that is really a must read. I liked it very much, and feel the underlying message is one we can all take away with us:
This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was obtained from the publisher.
UPDATE: One for the Murphys now has a very nice teacher's guide available here
Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday is a weekly event hosted by Shannon at Books, Ramblings and Plenty of Shenanigans