An Uncommon Family by Christa Polkinhorn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
So good I read it twice!
A rich and emotive story around three principal characters, each with their own troubled pasts. Although each of the characters bears an entirely different burden to the others, all three become inextricably linked in the unfolding story of an unlikely union.
Karla, a precocious and talented young girl; her guardian aunt Anna, withdrawn and mistrustful of men, devoted only to her niece; and Jonas, a kindly, gentle-souled man who undertakes art tutoring of young Karla. In doing so, a warm yet cautious relationship develops between he and Anna – but one that the reader wonders how it may possibly develop with Anna so rigid and full of doubt.
All three have tragedies to conquer, from grief to betrayal to guilt. Yet a close bond forms as Jonas becomes closer to both his protégé Karla, and the woman of his increasing desire, Anna. But as secrets unfold, and memories of betrayal linger, even as childish mischief comes into play, it looks sadly like this trio of loveable characters are going to drift apart.
This is a story described in a beautiful literary prose style, the narrative detailed and lyrically descriptive. I’m especially fond of the portrayal behind each three personalities. In Karla I see the amazing, if tragic, devices that a child may employ to deal with grief. Imagining under certain circumstances that a crack opens in the sky and you can see into Heaven to talk to those you’ve lost. Very touching. In Anna, the stoic mentality that is her armour against another betrayal, yet her own self-doubt at her capability to be enough of a ‘parent’ to Karla. And in Jonas, the persistence and patience of a solid character with a heart of gold, but a mind full of guilt for a crime that, in my opinion, really isn’t his to bear.
And… wherever I may have suspected the story would lead, I could not guess at the surprise twist in Anna’s past, a revelation that changes Anna’s perspective and, perhaps, enables her to release some of her pain. Only by moving beyond the past and looking optimistically ahead, will she have any chance of happiness.
All of the texture in this story, the smooth passage of time through seasons and years, the crisp dialogue and smooth plot development, makes for a thoroughly rewarding read. I recommend you read it, and ease into the nourishing atmosphere of this charming and cleverly depicted story of love, loss, loneliness, and hope.
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