Life isn’t Always a Fairy Tale
By Jennie Hansen
During all the long years my daughter waited to adopt a child, I grew frustrated with LDS novels that dealt with adoption. The stories were always told from the adoptive parents’ perspective, or the biological mother was difficult to like or sympathize with. Some were annoyingly over-simplified. Finally a writer, Julie Wright, has written one I like a lot. My Not-So-Fairy-Tale Life neither glamorizes nor sugar-coats the facts around an unplanned, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, but neither does it villainize or put down the young woman who finds herself in the difficult position of making choices concerning the future of the child she carries. In fact, I like Julie Wright’s Suzanna Quincy.
Two children grow up in a home where the mother physically and emotionally abuses and neglects them. Their father is a spineless character who cares about them, but is more concerned with maintaining his relationship with his wife than with protecting them. The son rebels against his upbringing by rejecting everything about the way he was raised, becomes a Mormon, and moves west. The daughter lives up to her mother’s negative expectations. She drinks, uses drugs, dresses outrageously, and is promiscuous. The daughter, Suzanna, has a smart mouth and has learned to cope with her mother by putting on an act of being just as rotten as her mother.
Unlike her mother, Suzanna doesn’t turn her hurt and disappointment toward her child when she learns she is pregnant. Neither does she choose to marry someone she cares nothing about. At first, she considers abortion the easiest solution to the unplanned pregnancy, but discovers she can’t go through with it. Because she doesn’t have the abortion, her mother throws her out. Soon without a car, a job, or a place to live, she purchases a bus ticket and heads west to find her brother. On the way, she meets an unusual young man who isn’t put off by her behavior, appearance, or wisecracks.
Suzanna isn’t the kind of girl Rion always expected to some day fall in love with, but he can’t help being drawn to her. He’s convinced he just wants to be her friend and help her with the problems she faces. He’s not about to settle for anything less than a temple marriage and Suzanna definitely isn’t temple-ready. Friendship is all Suzanna wants as well. She has no intention of becoming a Mormon like Rion and her brother Sam-Halo. All that goody-good stuff isn’t for her. Funny how life doesn’t work out the way one plans.
Julie Wright has written the best book I’ve read yet about a young woman who must make agonizing decisions concerning the fate of her unplanned and unborn child. Suzanna Quincy is a character that in less skilled hands would be hard to like, but Wright manages to walk that thin line that separates the sin from the sinner, leaving the reader feeling sympathetic toward Suzanna while abhorring the people and choices that place her in a position where she must make irrevocable decisions. My Not-So-Fairy-Tale Life is an excellent book for teenagers and their parents both to read.
The plot is well-developed, the characters are fleshed out well and are believable, and the information and details concerning abortion, single parenting, and the LDS Social Services placement program are well-researched. Wright successfully switches her characters’ focus from what they think they want to what is best for the baby.
Suzanna’s background is a little extreme and not really typical of the young women who turn to LDS Social Services for help, but she is believable and she shares many traits with real women who find themselves in a position similar to hers. The title and the dandelions on the cover are a little misleading, suggesting something light and casual. Though Wright’s style is modern and suggestive of Chic Lit, this story isn’t treated casually, nor is it the light-hearted feminist fun of that genre. It isn’t heavy or preachy either. It is an absorbing, thought-provoking story, filled with sound information.
Definitely two thumbs up for My Not-So-Fairy-Tale Life.
2005 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.