Actually, in a way I am sharing some poetry, because Beth’s writing is so poetic that it seems as if I were reading poetry when I read her novels.
But just because she has a lovely, lyrical way with words, don’t think that she can’t create interesting, sympathetic characters and a darn good plot.
Because she can.
You Are My Only is two stories in one. It’s the story of 20 year old Emmy Rane, and what happens when her baby daughter is stolen from her one summer day, how Emmy’s life is turned upside down, how she is placed in a mental hospital, how she suffers and longs for her Baby every single day. It’s also the story of Sophie, a 14 year old girl whose mother has always kept her under lock and key, moved her from place to place, always trying to escape from some amorphous No Good. At last, in typical teenage fashion, Sophie starts to question everything in her life, particularly the way her mother forces her to live. With the help of her first real friend, and his loving family, Sophie gains the courage to dig deeper into her mother’s past and discover some amazing truths about herself and her past. It’s also the story of some very wise and kind strangers who enter these women’s lives at just the perfect time and give them the confidence and support they need and have never received before.
Like every one of Beth Kephart’s novels, this one tugs at your heartstrings from the first word. There’s something about the way Beth writes that makes it clear she sees so deeply into the souls of her characters, and so the reader cares deeply about them too. Like this passage when Emmy tells her new friend Arlen about her missing Baby:
I let the darkness fall between us. I let the silence go on and I let the tears come up and I let the stars that come out shine and then there’s nothing for me but talking – telling this strange, dark man how the happiest of all my days was the day Baby was born. “As though I was born right alongside my little girl,” I say, and he nods – I think he does. I tell him how Mama died before she made acquaintance with my Baby, and how I’ve learned mothering on my own and also from the doctor who wrote the book of rules that tells you what to do. I married the same week I graduated high school, I say, and I explain as how by then I didn’t have choices, and I’ve done all my new learning on my own.
But this novel, more than any of Beth’s others, had me on the edge of my seat. The two stories, told in alternating chapters, began to converge like speeding trains on opposite tracks, and didn’t come to a complete halt until the very last paragraph.
Although marketed as a book for young adults, there are no age limitations on a beautifully written story like this one. But I wish more young adults would read books like this – books that make you realize the power of loving human relationships and the ability to redeem yourself, books that explore the deepest of human emotions universal to every age, books that elevate beautiful language to an art form.
You Are My Only is such a book.
Read it whatever your age.