Jory is 13 going on 14, and Grace is 17. Their father is a Harvard educated astronomer who is a very strict Christian. They go to a Christian school, aren't allowed to wear makeup or dance; must wear very modest clothes, and eat a lot of lentil loaf. Their mother is deeply unhappy and pretty much spends all of her time on tranquilizers, sleeping in her bedroom. Grace believes it is her destiny to serve as a witness to Jesus; to do this, she wants to go on a mission to Mexico. Off she goes for a few months, but is sent back home when she's taken ill. Her illness is actually a pregnancy. Her parents are just besides themselves at this turn of events. It gets even more strange when Grace announces that this child is a gift from God, and yep, God got her pregnant.
To save face and keep the scandal to a minimum, Grace's father Oren buys a house outside of town and moves Jory and Grace there. Jory's furious at this turn of events. She's forced to go to the public high school, where kids wear bell bottoms, smoke lots of weed, and have a life completely different than Jory's. Befriending the ice cream truck driver Grip is part of Jory's rebellion. She is on the fence; does she keep to her religious upbringing, or does she step into a different life, away from her parents? It's a lot for a 14 year old to handle. Grace is very fragile, and Jory is both frightened for her sister and angry at where her sister's actions have brought her. Not having her parents and sister Frances around much makes things very difficult. Yes, Jory's Dad moves a 14 and 17 year old to a house by themselves, with only an elderly neighbor to keep an eye on them.
There are moments that brought a smile to my face. The culture of 1970 is everywhere in this novel: the clothes, the attitudes of youth, the food, the feeling that our country was on the cusp of great change. Jory's growing pains mirror the culture she's reluctantly witnessing.
Will Jory and Grace make it through this trying time? I can't tell you. This is a powerful novel, and I felt for every awkward, uncomfortable moment Jory experiences. Her uncertainty, her anger, her feelings of abandonment. That sister love/hate relationship that only those who have sisters can ever possibly understand. This would make an excellent book club pick. There is much to this novel, and I'm so glad I received a copy from Penguin/Random House to review. I would have skipped over this title otherwise, and that would have been a shame.
The winner of a copy of The Girl Who Slept with God is:
Rating: 8/10 for a novel that really grew on me. Jory is a very well written character, and her growing pains are both beautiful and poignant.
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