Sunday, June 30, 2013
Book Review - The Penny
The novel has so many profound themes - some that I've faced in my work as a mental health Occupational Therapist through the stories of my clients exactly while reading this story. Although this novel moved me to tears often, the story of healing, breaking down walls of prejudice, and forgiveness outshone the sad parts. I found myself caught up in the story, reading well into the nigh - for me, a sign of a good book!
The book is set in the 1950's and is written in first person. It starts off with a young teenage girl name Jenny, maybe 13 or 14 years old or so, talking about her life - her sister who seems to not care much for her, her abusive father, and her mother who cowers in the corner letting her father do whatever he wants with her and her sister. She also describes the town she lives in, and describes Miss Shaw - the odd lady in town who owns a jewelry store. The story quickly moves to 'the penny' - how a small act of picking up a penny led to a cascade of events that eventually led to Jenny meeting Miss Shaw who profoundly impacted Jenny's life. Meanwhile, Jenny meets a friend (Aurelia) who is black. Jenny's father forbids her to interact with black people and is very controlling. Yet, Jenny has found a true friend - someone who does not judge her. Jenny experiences a lot of hurt and confusion, but also experiences something new - true friendship from Aurelia, a loving family through Aurelia's family, a new found source of hope, overcoming hardship, a life changing relationship with Miss Shaw, and ultimately the ability to stand up on her own feet and also forgive her father. The penny became a message of hope
I appreciate the eye opening realness and rawness of the book - a window into the experiences and real-life issues many people continue to face today. The book calls these issues out for what they are. As a young teenager who never saw racial prejudice until she truly got to know Aurelia, the description throws any reason to be prejudiced out of the water. The description of her pain when she is abused forced me to think about what abuse really is like - both for clients and people I know in my life - without going into gory detail of the abuse. I also appreciate the story of hope being woven throughout the book. The combination of the rawness and the hope made this book an excellent read!
This book impacted me both personally and professionally. It helped me gain a better understanding of some real and challenging issues people in history as well as people around me face (albeit some different circumstances). As a therapist who specializes in mental health and also provides psychotherapy, it helped me get a better perspective of what life is like for some of my clients and, in turn, will help me to empathize better.