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The Caretakes by Shauna Nosler

Saturday, August 13, 2011
1972, one year before the Roe v. Wade decision … IF ever there were a case for justifiable homicide, this, would most certainly be one. Jasper was only a few months away from graduating with honors from the University of Washington’s Law School, so he knew more than the average about the legal justification for killing another human being. When he first learned about this type of defense, he had thought it outrageous. But now, here he was, trying desperately to recall all that he could about how to validate the killing of this man. Because now, he was going to need to know. Now he was the one that needed a reasonable explanation to murder the son-of-a-bitch that did this to his sister.

1987, three young children playing together at their Aunt’s estate where Jasper’s daughter, the bold and insightful nine year old Caroline and her ten year old cousin Mitchell, a self-described book worm with passion for the military and indifference towards everything else, discover a small cross planted along banks of the river where they swim; a cross that bears the date March 24, 1972. Later, Mitch reveals that he has seen that same cross somewhere else before, and the two cousins begin their year long speculation over the cross’ origin and significance of the date scratched into the wood.

1988, Caroline is at her father’s law firm where she sees a back and white photo of a young woman standing amongst a large group of people holding signs that say “ROE”. As she looks closer and reads the encryption, she becomes curious and wonders if she was named after this woman- because all of her friends shorten her name to its middle syllable and call her Rho.

The Caretakers, is not another story of right vs. wrong or good vs. evil, but one of devotion vs. obligation and protection vs. abandonment. This is a story about the internal struggle that one faces when deciding to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but, regardless of consequence, or holding onto a secret forever in order to spare someone else unnecessary anguish.

Goodreads Summary

This novel begins with a dark, haunting prologue-partly why the reader will continue to read.  The reader isn't introduced to the main characters yet, but the prologue plays a large part in the plot and theme of the novel. 

The author writes in an unusually smooth and captivating way, adding quotes from notable persons and detailing scenes very well.  The reader will understand the atmosphere and be able to infer the emotions and thoughts of the characters fairly quickly in the book.  The characters, for the most part, are very easy to like and cheer for.  Mitch is known as the "pale child"-mostly because his mother has him convinced he needs to stay away from the sun-and is a reader.   Cecil is religious and "fearful of retaliation", a combination that is almost comical in the book.  Caroline aka "Rho" likes to pretend she is tough, but has quite a few fears of her own.  Jasper does his best to be strong and protective, but not everything can always work out.  These characters will endear themselves to the reader in the first part of the book. 

The plot is very interesting, there are several sub-plots that connect back to the plot as well.  Most readers know about the "Roe vs. Wade" case and can use background information to better understand the book.  There is a strong theme of right vs. wrong and if there should be a "divide" at all in the book.  There is also sadness, loss, family, death, destruction, etc... This book has a little bit of everything, but they all fit right into the story.  The ending is perfect for this book, the author sums everything up and leaves the reader with quite a few lessons.  This book is recommended for adults/young adults who enjoy realism. 

4 Stars