Even as children, we are held accountable for the choices we make in life. Enveloped in the protective cocoon of her family, religious convictions and values, Veronica (Ronnie) Swan --- at 12 years old --- faces the death of her two sisters. In a moment of unexplained rage, and for no apparent reason, Scott Early murders these poor girls. Mourning is unbearably slow for Ronnie's mother and father. Pillars of the Mormon community, her parents eventually forgive Scott, although their comprehension of the world does not include this act of horror against their own flesh and blood.
As a Mormon, Ronnie also believes that when people die they become Gods and Goddesses. Becky and Ruthie are in Heaven under God's protection forever more. Yet they were slain within several yards of where she now stands, in the family barn. Her loss is tangible, unexplainable and life-changing. She believes that Scott should atone for his sins --- and this challenge becomes her destiny.
"We were an ordinary family, a little bit more Birkenstock-y than some (my mother knitting a sweater for everyone but the horse), a little more National Geographica than some (my father tromping along applauding at sunsets and making teas from rose hips and his own special root beer from scratch)." Through Ronnie's eyes, we are shown a world where family, religion and compassion for fellow man are paramount. Her odyssey, independence and virtue illuminate the pages of CAGE OF STARS. Jacquelyn Mitchard weaves a story of Ronnie's incredible intestinal fortitude, vision and desire for justice. Ronnie's understanding of the world continues to develop as she begins her formal education and travels to California, leaving her family home.
Ronnie possesses the coping skills of an adult while retaining a certain genius and passion for life, knowing that her place on Earth is important. "I don't know that I'll ever be as completely happy as someone can be who's never been creased through the center by agony; but I don't think I'm altogether the worse for it, either." Her relationships, choices and chosen profession are all molded by her beliefs.
This book is an exceptional piece of modern literature and certainly Mitchard's best effort to date. Written with eloquence, grace and compassion, CAGE OF STARS is a knockout. I challenge you not to read it in one or two sittings.
Reviewed by Marge Fletcher on August 29, 2007
Cage of Stars