Have I mentioned before how much I love Angela Johnson’s writing? Hmmmm … yeah, you probably figured it out by the fact that I’ve already shared my booktalks for two of her novels, Bird and Looking For Red.
But Heaven will always hold a special place in my heart and in the hearts of readers who loved these characters and followed them through the novels The First Part Last and Sweet, Hereafter. Heaven is a great example of a small, delicate story. There are no cliffhangers here — no pulse-pounding dramatic event to use as a built-in hook for a booktalk. But dealing with betrayal is a psychological event that will still affect readers very deeply.
Marley is 14 years old, and she lives with her mother, father, and brother in the small town of Heaven, Ohio. She has a few friends, like Shoogy, Bobby, and Bobby’s daughter, Feather. Her only other friend is someone she never sees – her Uncle Jack. Uncle Jack travels all over the country with his dog, Boy. When he’s in a town that has a Western Union station, Marley is sent to wire money from her parents. Uncle Jack sends her letters in return, describing all the wonderful things that he and Boy have seen.
Marley’s life is quiet and beautiful … until one day when her mother and father sit her down for a talk. They say that they should have told her this sooner – but that’s what people who haven’t told the truth always say.
Momma and Pops tell Marley who she really is, and suddenly that quiet, beautiful world is gone. Now Marley has to live with this cloud of truth hanging over her head. Momma and Pops – the people she trusted most in the world – have lied to her her whole life. And everything Marley thought she knew about herself has changed. One day, Marley will be able to move past these lies, but she will never be the same again.