Summary: Just a girl. The only one strong enough to break the cycle.
In Depression-era Mississippi, Millie Reynolds longs to escape the madness that marks her world. With an abusive father and a "nothing mama," she struggles to find a place where she really belongs.
For answers, Millie turns to the Gypsies who caravan through town each spring. The travelers lead Millie to a key that unlocks generations of shocking family secrets. When tragedy strikes, the mysterious contents of the box give Millie the tools she needs to break her family's longstanding cycle of madness and abuse.
Through it all, Millie experiences the thrill of first love while fighting to trust the God she believes has abandoned her. With the power of forgiveness, can Millie finally make her way into the free?
Saturated in Southern ambiance and written in the vein of other Southern literary bestsellers like The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin, Julie Cantrell has created in Into the Free—now a New York Times Best Seller—a story that will sweep you away long after the novel ends.
About the Author:
New York Times and USA TODAY Bestselling author Julie Cantrell was the editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review. She has been a freelance writer for ten years and has published two children’s books. She has contributed to more than a dozen books, and her first novel, Into the Free, hit shelves February 1, 2012 (David C Cook).
In addition to writing the sequel to that novel, Julie was honored to receive the 2011 Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Artist Fellowship and is currently working on a creative nonfiction book about her family’s adventures as first-generation farmers. Julie and her family live in Oxford, Mississippi where they operate Valley House Farm. She is also a certified speech-language pathologist and currently teaches English as a second language to elementary students.
Visit Ms. Cantrell's website: http://juliecantrell.com
Plus, now you can read the first chapter online for free!
The Dame's Review :
This is one of those novels you could write a book about just to get across how wonderful it is. It's a book every book club should be dying to read and discuss! The story of a little girl who learns to view her world from the safety of a high tree, to dream of escaping the fears she has and the poverty she experiences both emotional and physical, will grip your heart from the first seconds you touch this book. But what also hooked me was the elequence and heart-stopping prose of Julie Cantrell. She is a storyteller personified.
"Into the Free" is so beautifully written and so rich in symbolism that it will not let you pull away. Even when you put the book down to go about daily business, the memory of what you've read and look forward to reading will haunt you. This is an extraordinary book with a human story that digs at the essence of what it means to be alive in spirit, and to love with your whole heart.
We primarily see the world through the eyes of Millie, a pre-teen then late teen, as she comes of age learning to understand the realities of the world and the adults within it; as well as her place within that world. Millie is a wise child, but one who is alone in the world. She embodies the spirit of any child who is held captive in a home surrounded by poverty and abuse. She's powerless to hinder her father's abuse of her dependent and addictive mother, and that mother's complacency, but her spirit finds a way to be free by way of her interactions with other people and her world view. Millie is a so fully developed and so sound in psychology that it's difficult to remember that she's a "make believe" character and not a living person whose biography one is reading. She's a jewel of a character whom I'll never forget.
"Into the Free" causes us to ask questions about what freedom actually is. Can we choose freedom in our situations, over enslavement? There are many choices this book looks at through Millie's eyes and which may cause the reader to assess her own world and spiritual views. I was particularly struck by Ms Cantrell's use of the gypsies as a way of showing what security and false security might be for Millie. The lure of the beautiful and strange may not always be best, and Millie has to decide if it's the right course to her own freedom.
Julie Cantrell is an author of blinding beauty and wisdom. Her spiritual insights and easy way of leading the reader into a deeper knowledge of them is graceful and blend well within her story. As Millie learns the difference between harsh, rote and human "religion," and finding godly love and caring, so does the reader. Millie comes to understand what "good" people really are versus what society claims and where "class" sets them. Her Choctaw blood and rodeo background make her an outcast in the town's society, but that doesn't mean she's "bad."
Ms Cantrell's book is a treasure of symbolism that I wish I had a group of friends to unravel with me! As I said, this is one for the book groups. A gorgeous book, and one I highly recommend to everyone. You have to get this book and/or put it on your must read list. It's a book you won't forget.
5 stars Deborah/TheBookishDame