Fourteen-year-old Claire and her mother, Jane, are on their way across the country to visit Claire’s grandmother. As they approach the family farm, Claire watches her mother become more and more anxious. Until now, she thought they had an open relationship with a healthy respect for each other’s privacy. This trip unlocks the key to the many questions Claire has about their past — including the identity of her father and the reason her mother never went back home until now. Gayle Friesen’s novel Janey’s Girl is a coming-of-age story with a twist: Claire’s mother is the one who reaches maturity.
Claire’s difficult decisions about her life, and her attempts to bring the old family secrets into the light, are balanced by humor and warmth in the dialogue and some fine, lovingly realized characters.
In this well-written first novel, Friesen tells an involving story about a girl trying to find out about her family’s past. The author is particularly adept at revealing the many emotions of the various characters. Readers should sympathize with Claire and what she goes through as she learns about her family, makes some important decisions, stands up to her overbearing mother, and comes to know her father and the half-brother she never knew she had.
Janey’s Girl is a stunning debut by Gayle Friesen of Delta, B.C. The main characters are real — interesting and imperfect. The story does not provide a neat, happy ending. It almost begs for a sequel but as Janey says at one point: “There’s no happily ever after here, Claire. How many times have I told you that?
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