cover image Songs of Faith

Songs of Faith

Angela Johnson. Scholastic, $15.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-531-30023-7

In Johnson's (Humming Whispers) absorbing character study, the country prepares the bicentennial celebration of Independence Day while 13-year-old Doreen and her younger brother Robert start a new chapter in their lives without their father. The finalization of their parents' divorce sharpens Doreen's sense that nearly everyone else is moving forward while she ""stays put"" in Harvey, Ohio, a place ""far out of everything and everybody."" With the closing of the steel mill, the town's population is shifting (""Mama Dot says Harvey's becoming a place full of just-divorced women and their kids""). Through Doreen's narrative, which is infused with remarkable insight and exceptional tenderness, Johnson crystallizes the pain of being left behind. Although her sparse narrative gives only a sketchy depiction of the heroine's father, readers will feel the impact of his absence on his children and wife. The relationships between the protagonist and the other characters here generally are not as fully fleshed out as in Johnson's previous novels. However, Doreen's straightforward opinions (""We're as divorced as she [her mother] is"") and poignant observations (""I will look at Robert and know I'll never figure out people's hearts"") ring true. A quiet, heart-wrenching read. Ages 9-13. (Apr.)