Go to Homepage   Kezi Matthews: John Riley's Daughter

 

Crescent Blues Book ViewsFront Street/Cricket Books (Hardcover) ISBN No. 0-8126-2775-X,
Memphis Riley hardly remembers her dead mother, Rosie. Neither does she remember much about her father, John Riley, who dropped her off on her maternal grandmother Naomi's front porch the day after her eighth birthday. With only faded memories and her mother's old guitar to fall back on, Memphis attempts to fit into life in Blue Parrot, S.C. Living with both a bitter grandmother and a mentally challenged aunt proves difficult -- a series of small "ups" and large "downs." The biggest down occurs when Aunt Clover smashes her mother's guitar. Angry at the ruin of her most cherished possession, Memphis says words she soon regrets.

Book: Kezi Matthews, John Rileys daughterThe same afternoon, Clover disappears. With their argument fresh in her mind, Memphis can't blame anyone but herself. Worse, neither can her grandmother. Naomi's concern for Clover overshadows any consideration for the damage done to Memphis' last remnant of her mother or Memphis' feelings of guilt and remorse. In Naomi's eyes, Memphis amounts to nothing more than "John Riley's Daughter," someone not to be trusted. Alienated by the last person in the world supposed to love her, Memphis turns to the elderly Aunt Birdie and her friend Samson in her struggle to find a sense of self-worth.

John Riley's Daughter portrays the problematic effects of one girl's absentee father on her past, her present and her future. Through author Kezi Matthews' apt interpretation of this age/cultural group, the reader gets a clear picture of Memphis' troubled world. Well-drawn characters make understanding their personal motivation as easy as spotting a rooster in a brood of hens.

A distinctive style and narrative voice provides color and depth to this valuable story of coming of age. As it addresses the common teenage problem of "dealing with guilt" in an optimistic, yet realistic and healthy way, John Riley's Daughter proves an invaluable read for teens. Although issues in this novel don't resolve themselves in the exact way that Memphis would have wished, John Riley's Daughter learns to make the best of, and accept and appreciate those blessings that life bestows upon her. What better message can any young adult book offer?

Lynne Remick

Click here to read Lynne Remick's review of Kezi Matthews Scorpio's Child.

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