Carrie Parker, from Toast North Carolina had an ideal life, living with her family, which included one doting father, who could deny his young daughter nothing. When her father dies at the hands of a murderer, she finds her picture perfect life not so perfect anymore. Her mother, struggling to be a parent on her own, foolhardily marries Richard, a man who turns out be abusive to those around him. She thinks she is gaining the economic support of a man providing for a family, but all she really gains is the knowledge of beatings, and worse happenings, when a man drinks heavily. Young Carrie has a front row seat to this downfall of her once tight knit loving family. Even when the family has to move from their family home, Carrie's mother still stands by her new man, over anything she might be recognizing as happening to her children. When even the child's own grandmother fails to help the reader may become frustrated, I know I did. I also had a bit of a hard time correlating how a mother could live a happy existence with one man, and such a horrible existence with another, and not recognize the wrongs going on around her. I understand how some women get trapped early on in bad relationships, but to go from a loving family to hell, and not seeming to care, may be a bit hard for some readers to grasp. Still, I read on, wanting to know how Carrie and her younger, but obviously much more resilient sister Emma, deals with the blows this new family dynamic dishes out.
With young Carrie narrating the story, she takes you back and forth, through memories of the good times with her father, and what its like to live with the likes of Richard. When Carrie is about to be punished by her new father, and her younger sister Emma steps a up to take the punishment for her, the reader is suddenly aware that there is much more going on with this family than just beatings. Sexual abuse is the issue at hand, and this might be a strong read for some.
When the sisters can take no more, and they set out to run away from home, the reader is introduced to the townsfolk, including an elderly neighbor, who does what he can to take the young Carrie and 'Emma' under his wing. You get a glimpse of both an innocent child, and what a life gone wrong can do to that child. With the help of her neighbor, Carrie and Emma do learn a few things, including how to shoot a gun, which in turn has this story taking even more twists for the reader to follow.
For as harrowing and mixed up as this story is, the story is believable, and because it is so, you feel for the young characters in a way that makes you want to toss the book so you never have to have that poor child live through those days again. At the same time, you keep turning the pages to get to what you figure will be a happy conclusion, only to be so totally blown away by how the end twists and turns, some may be rethinking the whole story. Personally, I picked the book right back up and found myself reading the book again, this time with new eyes to the happenings within the pages. If I were to say more, it would be giving away an ending that will leave you feeling for young Carrie and Emma even more so than one could ever think possible.
Me & Emma has been compared to many other books written in past and recent years on the subject of child abuse, but having read many of those books myself, I would say that Me & Emma is strong enough to stand on its own, and it needs no comparison to make it the book it is. If you are brave enough to keep turning the pages to the very end, pick up a copy of this book, but you may have to read it twice, the same way I did, else you will be forever wondering how you never figured it all out from the beginning.