Warning: This book includes mature content such as: sexual content, and/or drug and/or alcohol use, and/or violence.
Published by She Writes Press on 28 April 2014
Genres: Young Adult
Growing up in her parents’ crazy hippie household on a tiny island off the coast of Boston, Jules’s imaginative sense of humor is the weapon she wields to dodge household chaos. But somewhere between routine discipline with horsewhips, gun-waving gambling debt collectors, and LSD-laced breakfast cereal adventures, tragedy strikes with the death of her younger brother—a blow from which Jules may never fully recover.
Jules’ story alternates with that of her Grandfather Samuel, a man with a sad story of his own. Samuel, once called Szaja, is an orthodox Jew who lived through the murderous Ukranian pogroms of the 1920s and the Majdanek Death Camp—but whose survival came at a price that’s haunted him for years.
*I received a free ARC of The Belief in Angels from She Writes Press via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review*
The Belief in Angels is a pretty tough story to read, there is child-abuse, drug use, 2nd world war story about the Jewish grand-dad from Ukraine. Jules never seems to be able to catch a break, her whole child-hood is filled with darkness, fear and very little hope. Her dad drinks too much, and never hesitates to raise his hand, both to his children and his wife. And the mom, she gets high, is an eternal student, and leaves the children to mend for themselves most of the time.
I have to point out that the prologue almost turned me off of the story completely, so if you can – just skip it! Telling me how to read and understand the book, while at the same time saying there are as many different truths as there are people just didn’t ring true with me – so I’m using my very own truth to just share my view on that. Written partly as if it was kind of a diary The Belief in Angels is mostly from Jules’ point of view, but there are glimpses into her grand-father’s mind as well, and with him, the readers are taken back to Ukraine, before the second world war, and the splintering of his family when his parents brought the youngest children with them to the US.
There are a lot of family secrets and hurt in The Belief in Angels, and to me, the main theme is that those secrets can do nothing but hurt everybody involved, both those who know, and those who don’t know. And keeping the secrets at bay may come at a cost that is far too much for all of them. It is a wonder to me that Jules survived her childhood, even after her father finally left, there is neglect. Her mother only cares about herself, her boyfriend and the next high, and she goes as far as slipping acid into Jules’ breakfast cereal one day, just for fun. And the fact that both of her parents are so completely unfit is what made this a difficult read for me. It always makes me sad to read about children who cannot fully live their carefree childhoods, but I think it is very important to tell stories about their lives anyway, if only to point out what to look for so someone can help those who can’t get the care they need at home.
Pretty sad and gloomy most of the time, The Belief in Angles still has a tiny glimmer of hope, and trying to find that little shimmer of light along with Jules is what kept me reading, cheering for her as she grew older, stronger and wiser. The guilt she lived with because of her parents’ way of life, and the fact that they put far too much responsibility on her tiny shoulders made me tear up, and I wanted to smack both her parents, her teachers, and sometimes her grand-father for not stepping in and making hers and her siblings’ lives better. For a long time, she only has her older and younger brother to talk to, and when she finally finds some friends, it’s like a whole new universe for her.
If you are in the mood for a tough, sad and very realistic read, you should pick up The Belief in Angels, it will take you through a very dark and narrow tunnel, but that tiny light at the very end is worth the painful journey it takes the readers on while trying to shoulder some of Jules’ pain.
The writing is pretty good, but there are some grammatical mistakes, as well as some typos in the ARC I got, hopefully these have been caught and will not appear in the final copy.
We became less like children and more like neglected pets. We got intermittent feedings until I learned to cook, no affection, and almost no attention, except when we didn’t behave in a way that please Wendy, which pretty much meant being in the same room as her and breathing. We developed independence beyond our years. Within our own pet universe we found hierarchy and function.
I never believed my family made me different or that my difference grew as a result of my environment. I didn’t even feel like a member of a family. Our house very loosely held a group of individuals who happened to share a space but no commonality. We were solely growing up together.
I’m surprised he’s acting nice to me. I don’t have any real friends at school. Friends are too much bother and kind of risky. I can’t bring people back to our house because I never know what Wendy will do to embarrass me. She loves taking off her clothes and stuff and walking around the place that way.I hate the mess, the music, and all the noise form the people hanging around. Wendy and the hippie crowd don’t even notice when I walk upstairs to the visual quiet and peace of my bedroom.