Jessica Villareal is a cop. She's also a mother but she considers herself a better cop than parent and whenever she talks to her daughter she's reminded of her motherly shortcomings. Regret has a big part in Jess's life. She regrets many things, but mostly the over-protectiveness of her daughter as a teenager that eventually pushed her to go live with Jess's ex-husband, taking her young grandson with her. She would give anything to go back and do things differently. But when you're a cop and you've seen the things Jess has seen, its easy to become obsessed with protecting your family.
WHEN SHE FLEW by Jennie Shortridge is a fictionalized story taken straight from actual events that asks the question What makes a good parent? Is good parenting determined by following societies interpretation of what acceptable parenting should be? Or is it a case by case basis taking individual circumstances into account? Is it illegal to go against the grain of society and do what you think is right for your child no matter what? And should you be persecuted for not conforming to 'normal' social practices?
These are the questions that Officer Villareal faces when she meets Lindy, a thirteen year old girl and her father, an Iraq war veteran who is down on his luck and living in the forests of Oregon. When Lindy is spotted near a wildlife preserve, and takes off running when she realizes she's been seen, fear for her safety becomes paramount. The police assemble an all out man hunt to find this supposed 'lost' child. What they find instead is a father and daughter living self sufficiently in the forest at a camp with sparse, but clean living conditions, a garden of fresh food and no evidence at all that the girl is being harmed in any way.
Things begin to get complicated when Jess learns more about Lindy's family life and disagrees with the actions of social services. As she gets to know Lindy and her father, she begins to understand the choices he's made. Her mothering instincts come out and at the same time she can't help reflecting on her relationship with her own daughter. Jess has always been a follow-the-rules kind of cop but she soon finds herself making decisions that could not only put her job in jeopardy, but also land her on the wrong side of the law.
Jennie Shortridge does an amazing job of telling this story in a way that unfolds beautifully and realistically while bringing to the forefront the different perceptions of the proper way to raise a child. It is told in alternating voices between Jess and Lindy, giving deep insight to each character. We learn that although Jess has made mistakes in her personal life, she is trying hard to make amends yet still stick to her principles. In Lindy, we discover a thriving, smart, teenager who, thanks to her father, appreciates the natural world around her. A girl who as she begins to mature is not naive to her circumstances. She realizes she has dreams of her own and that the situation with her father is unique. She is a young lady with a soul much older than her years, which in this case, is not necessarily a bad thing.
I was lucky enough to receive an early review copy of this novel and I knew once I read the first few pages I was going to like it. Not only did I like Jess right off the bat, I fell right into the groove of Shortridge's wonderful writing style. It was a very pleasurable read and now I'm looking forward to reading her previous book, LOVE AND BIOLOGY AT THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE that I've heard so much about. For more information on Jennie, her books and latest news, click here to visit her website.
Author: Jennie Shortridge
Publisher: NAL Trade
Published: November 2009
Ratintg: 4.5/5 Stars