Gail Gauthier: Save Me
One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (whom I have known for over ten years) is a touching, sweet-natured story of a toughened girl from a rough background who falls in with the right crowd. After living what sounds like a day-to-day life in Vegas with her single mom, Carley Connors ends up in suburban Connecticut with her mother and an abusive stepfather. Stepdad becomes violent, and Mom and Carley end up hospitalized. Mom, who hasn’t been nominated for Mother of the Year, ever, lands in rehab because of her injuries. Carley lands in foster care with the Murphy family, who she finds oppressively good, particularly the mom.
I happened to start reading One for the Murphys as I was finishing up one of those mysteries set in the nineteenth century with a clever upper class female lead and an outsider male (who is still a gentleman, of sorts, of course) counterpart who are clearly attracted to one another but always taking one step toward a relationship and then experiencing misunderstandings that keep them apart. (Yeah. I read those, but I’m not bragging.) As a result, I saw parallels in One for the Murphys. It appears to me to be what I’ll call a “family romance,” a story in which an outsider child does the one-step-forward-bump-into-misunderstandings dance with a truly good family that has the potential to save her/him if they can only get together.
All the time I was reading about Carley in Murphys, I was thinking about Dan in Little Men.When I was a child, Little Men was the Alcott book as far as I was concerned, not Little Women, which I liked well enough but even then probably found a little holier than thou. Carley is so much like Dan, craving mother Julia Murphy as Dan craves mother Jo Bhaer. There is an actual love interest in these stories, a mother/child love interest between real mothers and children they have no biological connection to. Both child characters in the relationships have redemptive scenes with their mother figures’ biological children. It’s clear that Carley’s personal story will continue past the end of One for the Murphys. Dan’s personal story continues in another actual book, Jo’s Boys.
One for the Murphys will be a good read for adults who hope they could save a child if they had to and for children who hope there is an adult out there who could save them if they needed it.
I have met many other writers, but I don’t think I’ve known one as long as I’ve known Lynda or known one before she started publishing. Reading the early chapters of this book was a bizarre experience because I could often hear Lynda’s voice speaking Carley’s dialogue and visualize her facial expressions and body language.