Parents' Guide to

A Swift Pure Cry

By Matt Berman, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Irish teen gets accused of killing her baby.

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This was the late Siobhan Dowd's first novel, and it's a heartbreaking one. Based on a true story and set in Ireland in the '80s, it reveals a life that, one hopefully assumes, is far removed from that of most of its readers. For the first two-thirds of the book, it's a chronicle of a life no one should have to lead. Perhaps the saddest part of it is the way that Shell just keeps going along as if this is just what life is like and there's no reason to even suspect that it could be better.

In the last third of the book, it turns into a mystery. While the reader will have figured it out long before anyone in the book does, it's still a thriller. But throughout the book, there is one small hero who is almost overlooked: Shell's stalwart 9-year-old brother, Jimmy, who's the first to figure out that she's pregnant. His chipper and unobtrusive caring is one of the little touches that elevate what could have been a tale of unrelenting misery into something else, something hopeful ... and pure.

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