Is there anything more awkward than middle school? Everything about you is changing, your mom is bent on humiliating you, kids are mean and your teachers are clueless. And, if you're Charmaine Peakes, your prophecy-spewing father is in a mental institution, you live in a converted RV by the river and you're having an existential religious crisis.
Angela Pneuman captures the absurdity and misery of being 13 with an accuracy that will make you cringe in remembrance. Although Lay It on My Heart only spans one month of Charmaine's life, her world is irrevocably changed within it. As the idyllic lies of her childhood fall away, Charmaine handles the unbearable truths left behind with a growing maturity. Deftly exploring faith and adolescent desires for love and stability, Lay It on My Heart is both funny and tragic, much like adolescence itself.
When the people start trickling through the gate, they're blinking like they've been deep underwater instead of up in the air. One tanned, elderly couple passes through the doorway whispering and glancing behind them at a skinny man with a wild beard. He's dressed like an illustration from the Bible, in a brown robe and rope sandals, and for just a moment I think that's why he looks so familiar. Then Phoebe's hand on my shoulder gets so heavy it hurts.
"Oh," she says, and suddenly, beneath the beard, I recognize my father. His lips are moving like he's talking quietly to himself, which means he's probably receiving prophecy. It can come upon him any time, like a spell.
"David," Phoebe says. She waves her arms until he sees and heads in our direction. His legs work slowly against the heavy robe, like he's wading through water. I'm used to thinking of him as a prophet, which some people consider unusual even in a town as full of churches as East Winder. But until now he's always kept his hair short and his face shaved, and he's always worn the regular clothes Phoebe picks out or sews for him. Still, you never know what you're getting with my father on any given day. "The prophet," he has said in the past,"is different from the man."
What have you been reading lately?