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Follow The Stars Home by Luanne Rice - Book Review

Title
Author
Publisher

Follow The Stars Home
Luanne Rice
HarperCollins

Fiction-Net Rating 4 Star Rated Book

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Cover Story

Being a good mother is never simple. Each day brings new choices and challenges. For Dianne Robbins, being a devoted single mother has resulted in her greatest joy and her darkest hours. Weeks before her daughter was born, she and her husband, Tim McIntosh, receive the news every parent fears.

Tim had not reckoned on their child being anything less than perfect and abruptly fled to a solitary existence on the sea, leaving Dianne with a newborn - almost alone. It was Tim's brother, Alan, the town pediatrician, who stood by Dianne and her exceptional daughter. Throughout the years of waiting, watching, and caring, Alan hid his love for his brother's wife but one of the many hard choices Dianne has made is to close her heart toward any man - especially one named McIntosh. It will take a very special twelve-year-old to remind them all that love comes in many forms and can be received with as much grace as it is given.

As lyrical and moving as the poetry of nature, Follow The Stars Home is a miracle of storytelling that will take your breath away. If words alone can dare us to confront our fears and to choose joy over sorrow, then Luanne Rice's magnificent novel is a benediction and a call to celebrate our lives.

We Say

For some people, hardship or tragedy brings out their best qualities. In others, hardship and tragedy further highlights shortcomings and flaws in character. Parenting a child under normal circumstances is a daunting task and parenting a child with a serious handicap is often seen as an insurmountable challenge. In Luanne Rice's novel, Follow the Stars Home, the author examines how Julia, a handicapped child, affects the lives of those around her. Julia's handicap serves as a catalyst for many events to occur despite the struggle of those around her to keep them from happening. Follow the Stars Home is a novel that deals with human frailty while celebrating the strength of the human spirit.

Dianne Robbins has the misfortune of choosing the wrong brother for a husband. Not only does Tim, her husband of choice steal her away from his brother Alan but he abandons her when he discovers that their child will be born with a handicap. What began as a whirlwind, storybook romance ends in betrayal and heartache.

Throughout the novel, Dianne is presented as a self sacrificing and devoted mother. At no time do we see her rant and rave about her 'lot' in life or despair over the unjustness of it all. We are only given brief glimpses of her feelings of loneliness and despair. Despite these glimpses, it is incredibly hard to feel too much sympathy for her because she is so darn good. The reader is presented with a mother whose dedication would put Mother Theresa to shame.

In contrast to her dedication as a mother, Dianne demonstrates an enormous amount of stupidity in her continued reluctance to live life. Julia often becomes an excuse to avoid taking any risks. While it is hard not to like Dianne, her character seemed two dimensional and difficult to identify with. Alan McIntosh is the town pediatrician. Not only is he a skilled physician, but he has made every effort to make any and all treatment options available to his niece Julia to help reduce the need for hospitalisation and lengthen her life. Dedicated to Julia because she is his niece and also because he is in love with her mother, he is the stereotypical good guy that seems to finish last. Whilst his patience is admirable, it does seem to be a little difficult to believe. Here is a bright, intelligent and handsome doctor who remains single because he is in love with his sister-in-law.

Although Dianne has been separated and divorced from Alan's brother for years, she is unwilling to get involved with another man, and Alan just patiently waits in the sidelines. Perhaps that is the beauty of this novel, that in this particular case, patience is a virtue and true love does overcome all obstacles.

Finally there is Amy, a lonely young girl who has suffered the death of her father and as a result, essentially lost her mother. When Amy befriends Dr. Alan McIntosh, he introduces her as a possible playmate for his niece. The relationship between Amy and Julia develops quickly. Amy is able to see beyond Julia's disabilities and a true friendship develops. Dianne is also able to recognise Amy's good heart and they become a source of support for each other. Amy is perhaps the most engaging character in this novel. Brutally honest, Amy does not view the world through rose-tinted glasses. Fiercely devoted to her own mother despite the neglect, Amy longs for a relationship with her mother equal to that of Dianne and Julia. Amy is that one child that seems to stay with you long after she has gone home.

Follow the Stars Home lacks the necessary elements to make it a truly fantastic book. While there are intense emotional moments, Luanne Rice's attempts to pull at the heartstrings are a little too obvious. Still, Follow the Stars Home is an enjoyable book even if it does not quite reach its full potential.

Review by: Yumi Nagasaki-Taylor

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