I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of Sparrow Road from the author, Sheila O'Connor. This book will be available in The Lemme Library after it is released in May... trust me, it will be worth the wait.
I don't want to give away the secrets of Sparrow Road, I want you to discover those for yourself, but I will give you my spoiler free book talk!
Raine is upset that she will be leaving Milwaukee (and Grandpa Mac) for the entire summer. She and her mother have lived with Grandpa Mac her entire life and she can't imagine being so far away from him. Raine does have a father, everyone does, but she knows nothing about hers. It has just been Raine, mama and Grandpa Mac for as long as she can remember.
Raine is even more upset that her mama has taken a job as a maid and cook for a group of artists in a town she has never heard of. Raine thinks that mama has good a job in Milwaukee, and there is no reason to leave... no reason that Raine knows of at least. Why leave a good thing for something unknown and so far away?
When Raine and mama arrive at their destination, Sparrow Road, they are greeted by a cranky, quiet man by the name of Viktor. Viktor doesn't talk much, just enough to tell Raine the rules: no talking, no tv, no phone, no radio until after 5 PM each day, except on Sunday, Sunday you may do all of those things. Do not bother the artists and do not go in their sheds. They come here for peace and quiet. Raine is shocked at all of these rules- mama never mentioned RULES. Raine is full of questions that nobody will answer. Mama tells her that not everything is a mystery. But it seems that mama is part of the mystery when she disappears once a week with Viktor. She says she is going into town to buy groceries- but Raine knows better.
While mama is off on one of her mystery trips, she has a chance to meet the artists of Sparrow Road, and discovers that her summer might not turn out to be as miserable as she imagined. The artists welcome Raine with open arms, and encourage her to find the writer inside her. One artist in particular, encourages Raine to take all of her questions and write them down. Diego tells her that once she writes down her questions, she will find her story, and her answers. Raine has plenty of questions to write in her sketchbook, like:
Where is mama going each week with Viktor?
Why is Viktor "The Iceberg" so mean?
Why won't mama let me go into town without her?
While at Sparrow Road, Raine also meets Josie- a free spirited artist with rainbow hair and crazy clothes. Josie tells Raine the history of Sparrow Road- that it was used as an orphanage for children whose parents couldn't care for them. At one time, Sparrow Road was full of children waiting for someone they have been missing to come and take them home. When Raine sees the attic where the orphans lived, her head swims with even more questions. Who were these orphans? Where are they now? Was Viktor an orphan too? What did it feel like to be an orphan? That last question resonates with Raine more than she expected it to- she knows what it is like to wait for someone she has been missing... her father.
This is a beautifully woven story, full of characters that captured my heart (all but Eleanor). This book will entice readers with the mystery of Sparrow Road and of Raine's life: what was and what could be. Readers will root for Raine and feel for her as she discovers who she is and where she belongs. Aspiring artists will find hope by reading this story, they will learn that we all have a story to tell and a masterpiece to paint- we just have to look inside and ask the right questions.
You can read Ms. O'Connor starred review from Kirkus here, but it does tell the secrets... read with caution.