A Month of Sundays

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
A Month of Sundays Book Poster Image
Light romance flirts with tough issues.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

This is an affectionate take on Appalachia in the mid-20th century, complete with poodle skirts and speaking in tongues. Readers will come away with a strong sense of time and place, and an idea of what it might have been like for a girl like Garnet to live then.
 

Positive Messages

Faith is a central thread, but, surprisingly, A Month of Sundays is more about family than religion. Loyalty, pride, community, and compassion are celebrated in the Rose family, whose close ties are reflected in their longtime family homestead. Garnet learns the importance of asking tough questions and the power of forgiveness.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Garnet is spirited and loyal to her mother, even in her anger. She's compassionate and able to forgive, however -- first her mother, and then her father. The adults around her, including her aunt, uncle, grandfather, and parents, are generous and loving in their own ways.
 

Violence

There's a brief reference to a fatal car crash, but no details.

Sex

Just a simple, quick kiss.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this very tame romance by the Newbery Award-winning author of Belle Prater's Boy (1996) is set in Appalachia in the 1950s, when boys still needed to ask permission to court a young girl. Religion plays a central role, but mostly in setting the scene. Garnet visits churches where people speak in tongues, handle dangerous snakes, and perform faith healing, but there's little discussion of how any of the characters feel about God. The real emotional focus is on finding faith and strength with family.

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What's the story?

When her mother heads to Florida to search for work, Garnet finds herself abruptly left with her father's family, whom she'd never met. Feeling abandoned first by her father as a baby and now by her mother, Garnet is angry -- but she soon warms up to her generous, kind aunt. Aunt June, diagnosed with terminal cancer and looking for a miracle, takes Garnet with her to a different church each Sunday.
\ Within a few weeks, Garnet falls for a youth pastor, witnesses her aunt's mysterious healing, gets to know and love her extended family, and unexpectedly meets her father. When tragedy leaves her heartbroken, she turns to family for support.

Is it any good?

While this story flirts with heavy themes -- feeling abandoned, being raised by a single mother, economic hardship, coping with terminal illness -- it never really engages with any of them. Garnet remains a fairly thin character, despite the first-person narration. It's obvious how she feels about the improbably named Silver Shepherd, but her feelings about her parents and what she experiences at the churches is superficial. More disappointing is that the thorniest problems are resolved so lightly: by faith healing, by clearing up a simple misunderstanding, by looking for the bright side. The melodrama reaches a height just four pages before the novel abruptly ends. What had potential to be a solid coming-of-age novel winds up a ho-hum romance.

Nevertheless, Ruth White draws a warm portrait of the Rose family and their Appalachian community. Young tweens might enjoy this glimpse into a time when television was still a novelty.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the setting of the story. Why do you think the author places her characters in the 1950s? How might the story be different if it took place today?

Book details

For kids who love historical stories

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