California Literary Review

Where No Gods Came – Sheila O’Connor

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March 16th, 2007 at 6:22 pm

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University of Michigan Press 196 pp.

Tough Love

Rating: ★★★★☆

Twelve year old Faina McCoy was living an idyllic life with her father near the beach in San Diego when he broke the news that she needed to live with her mother for awhile in Minneapolis. Something about gambling debts and leaving to work on an oil rig off the Australian coast – just until he can earn enough money to get out of the hole he’s in and come back for her. Faina must make the transition from laid back 60’s Southern California to barren inner city Minneapolis and begin life anew with an ailing, alcoholic, agoraphobic mother and Faina’s drug addled delinquent teenage sister.

Where No Gods Came is a sensitive, often disquieting book that rings true throughout. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the characters – the father’s sentiments are expressed through his letters to Faina from Australia.

How do people, especially a twelve year old girl, survive such traumatic changes in their life? How does a twelve year old assume the role of mother to her own completely dependent mom? How does a child develop psychologically and maintain her sanity when no one around particularly cares about her? Seeing Faina’s life unfold under these circumstances makes Where No Gods Came especially compelling. And she is not only resilient, but a light to others she comes in contact with. It’s the skill of an accomplished writer that we see Faina’s extraordinary spirit, while simultaneously experiencing her pain and despair. The end result is an uplifting, even inspiring book without any of the sugarcoating often found in stories like this.

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