Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Diamond in the Rough

Diamonds in the Shadow by Caroline B. Cooney
Delacorte Press, 2007
ISBN: 9780385732611
228 pages
4.5 of 5

The Finch family doesn't know that five refugees have landed from Africa on the day they do to the airport to welcome the family sponsored by their church.  The Finch family only knows about the four refugees they're meeting: Andrew, Celestine, Mattu, and Alake--father, mother, teenage song and daughter.

Jared Finch was horrified and angry when he learned from his minister that his parents had agreed to take in this African refugee family.  Jared is not amused that he'll have to share his home with a family who have never used a phone, driven a car, or seen a supermarket full of food.  Jared's annoying younger sister, Mopsy, immature as usual, is so thrilled to share her room with an unknown girl that she's jumping up and down.

The Amabo family, who have suffered unimaginable horrors, begin to adjust to a life of plenty in the Finches' suburban Connecticut home.  And the Finches begin to realize that what they have understood about charity has been very little indeed.  Still, life seems good.

The fifth refugee does not believe in good.  This lawless rebel has managed to enter American undetected.  And the Amabo family has something of his--something that they agreed to carry into the country for him.

When Jared realizes that the good guys are not always innocent, he must make a decision that could change the fates of both the Finches and the Amabos.  In this uncommonly penetrating story, Caroline B. Cooney presents many points of view and a fresh perspective on doing the right thing. (From the book jacket)

Completely enraptured.  I spent most of a day just reading this book.  I actually left work late just so I didn't have to stop reading it.  One of the most intriguing lines comes early in the novel: "In a civil war," Crick said, "there are no good guys.  They're all guilty of something.  You are probably not saving the innocent, because in a civil war, nobody is innocent."  It seems a terrible way to introduce a community to an incoming refugee family, but the way this small piece (from an auxiliary character) plays out through the novel is absolutely wonderful.

The characters of both families each have their own personalities and their own secrets and fears.  I won't say that all the characters are fully developed, because some are definitely more important than others.  But even the characters that are neglected are given alibis of sorts; it's just a perfectly crafted novel. 

So with the glowing review above, why the 4.5 and not a 5?  Even though I was hooked by the end of the novel, it takes some time to gear up.  Also, even though I understood where Jared was coming from, I didn't like the introduction to him.  He struck me as superficial and selfish and when I started the book I wasn't in the mood for that type of narrator.

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