By Nicole Murray
Review By Doris H. Dancy
Five Star Review: Autumn’s Child by Nicole Murray takes its readers on a whirlwind ride through the horrors that life can serve up to the innocent simply by chance. At every dark turn in this coming of age novel, eleven year old Layla’s life demands immediacy… absorb immediately the ache of abandonment and loss, digest instantly the hurt of being pried from friends and the only family you know. At this tender age, grasp straightaway the agony of being thrust into unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people who resent your very existence, wrap your head, without delay, around new and invasive cultures as you watch your fleeting middle class upbringing morph into unexplored inner city madness and lack…find your way around the confusion of abuse, both mental and sexual, and stubbornly distance yourself, kicking and screaming, at the wrenching away of who you were meant to be and who you are inevitably becoming.
Layla, who loses her parents to a sudden and unexpected death is torn away from all that is familiar, and forced unprepared into a world totally different from her private Catholic school upbringing where she says “the world I had been familiar with consisted of swimming pools in backyards, swing sets, and the Lord above.” This new life, however, offers only a jealous Aunt Libby, a worldly friend, Shay, and her only saving grace in “granny” who loves and cares about her future. This is a place where “it seems like tomorrow never comes, but when it does we can’t catch up with it and it’s gone forever.”
As Layla stumbles through the unfamiliar territory of inner city Chicago, she learns to steal and lie, but never to fend for herself. Others fight her battles, protect her from her own innocence, and sometimes steer her in a direction that is simple for her own self-perseverance.
Murray takes her readers through Layla’s maze with truths revealed in powerful passages. “That day I stood on the front porch and observed in detail every soul that passed, their tired and immune faces radiated no light. Everyone who passed by marched like zombies with no aspiration; they simply strolled along on a journey of -30 insignificance. Their life goals were buried six feet deep even before they were old enough to correlate the coincidence of the phrase.”
We despair with Layla through Murray’s authentic dialogue that informs the character’s would be boyfriend, “I’m broken, Justin. I have nothing left to give.”
In her vivid descriptions, the author draws us into Layla’s unrelenting drive and guilt to care for Aunt Libby at the price of her soul.
In the end, Murray dares her readers to answer if these same excruciating events had happened to us, would we have made different choices. It is, indeed, a provocative question that we can only hope we would utter, “yes, we would have.”