Monday, January 26, 2009

Mulberry Park by Judy Duarte

Mulberry Park by Judy Duarte

Whether you believe in God, perhaps in some other spiritual being, or even in no greater source at all, Judy Duarte's Mulberry Park is a book you should strive not to miss. Centered around a child's play place, Mulberry Park, this story packs a whopping punch that can only be accused of disappointing for the pure and simple fact that it did not go on forever. A remarkable, memorable cast, the characters in Duarte's book all lead such different lives, but throughout it Duarte does an incredible job of weaving their stories together in a piece by piece style, much like a quilt. Each individual quilt square is beautiful in and of its own right, and each tells its own story. But when put together with a variety of other quilt squares, what was once a fine stand alone piece suddenly becomes a magnificent tapestry and work of art. This is what Mulberry Park felt like to me. Each individual had his or her own sad, lonely tale to tell. Each was flawed and suffered from a very real tragic fate. And yet throughout the story not once did Duarte drop the ball and leave me wondering "Why?". Not once did a single iota of this tale ring untrue or unbelievable.

A young girl's utter and complete heartbreak turns in to a soul searching, heartwarming, life changing, unshakable faith that should not, for all intents and purposes, have been able to withstand the doubts, trials, and tribulations thrown at it. Her pure innocence focused on bringing those around her hope and healing, both spiritual and physical. Her inability to give up that faith girded her against further heart ache and loss. A sweet child's unadulterated prayers to God, and her undying faith that He was out there listening to her, no matter how busy He was, will go a long way towards turning even the most stubborn reader's heart to a new way of thinking.

As a six year old girl, little more than a baby, Analisa loses her parents and finds herself being cared for by her Uncle Sam. Sam loves his niece, but he's a workaholic. On top of that, Sam is unsure how to relate to his newly orphaned niece, and as a non-believer he is even more perplexed when faced with the question of eternity. Are Analisa's mommy and daddy in Heaven? Are they okay? Are they happy there? These are the questions Analisa finds herself penning to God when her Uncle can't satisfy her curiosity. Writing a letter to God, as Analisa believes, is the perfect way to be sure God knows your deepest, darkest questions and hears your prayers. Praying aloud, or even quietly, is one thing, but writing it all down for God gives Him a chance to speak back a response in an entirely different way. The trouble is, you can't just write a letter to God. You have to write the letter, and then get it as close to Heaven as possible before God can reach it. And what better place to release such a letter than in the top most portion of the great old Mulberry tree in Mulberry Park? Analisa is too small and young to accomplish the feat of getting her letter to God up as high in the tree as necessary, yet the lonely boy who comes to the playground by himself every day looks just about the right size to be able to help. Asking Trevor to climb the tree and release her precious pink envelope into the branches takes a lot of guts. It's not every day you can tell someone you're writing a letter to God, and that you want their help in making sure it gets there. As it turns out though, this step of courage and unimaginable endurance of faith, leads both Analisa and Trevor on an astoundingly, phenomenal journey through faith, to God, from this place we call life. Others, many others in fact, are impacted too, and the life they all lead will never be the same again.

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Meekness, and Temperance. These are the nine Fruit of the Spirit, according to Galatians 5:22-23. And all of these are actively taught, learned, and lived throughout the pages of this book. Duarte's characters all suffer in one form or another, and each is at a different spiritual level of maturity. However, Duarte's attempt to combine several individual stories and perspectives in to one concise novel is nothing short of triumphant. As she has woven together all the lives and tales within the pages of Mulberry Park, Duarte has done a smooth and seamless job.

Inspirational, thought provoking, and heartwarming. Mulberry Park is a narrative of epic proportions that is best served up and digested in as few sittings as possible. If readers are anything like me they will not be able to put this one down, and will be intently reading until the very last word on the very last page. A truly moving read, if ever there was one.

-Bookish Mom, aka RebekahC

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