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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Reconstructing Charlie by Charmaine Gordon

Reconstructing Charlie by Charmaine Gordon
Publisher: Vanilla Heart Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (227 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Charlie Costigan has a secret. Home life gone from bad to the worst when she protects her mother from another vicious attack by her drunken father. Midnight. Clothes thrown into an old suitcase, she races for the bus with a letter to an unknown aunt and uncle. This is my daughter. Embrace her as if she were your own.

Determined, Charlie begins again. Alone with her secret.

Fifteen-year-old Charlie feels like a “thrown-away” child even though her unusual mother gives her a life-line as she packs a bag for Charlie and then tells her to run--never tell the secret, never come back, never call. Charlie holds fast to that lifeline and makes a PLAN.

Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, Charlie rises above being abused and used. With steely determination, she thrives in the care of an aunt and uncle she’s never known; but her guilt and need to connect with her mother and siblings bring her low at times.

The amazing array of secondary characters all help “reconstruct” Charlie. They help as she uses her innate intellect and learned skills, like running, to assist as she works through her PLAN. Her wealthy Aunt Eleanor and Uncle Stuart, the unique people who make their home run like magic, and the heart-winning Australian Labradoodles, Lord and Lady, embrace Charlie, rough edges and all. The connection she makes with each of them helps polish the many facets of her personality.

Even the antagonists at school and work cannot derail Charlie. They strengthen her resolve. Thomas Donnelly, her standoffish guardian in high school and her first romance in college along with Mike Connor, the construction worker, entice her in a direction that could put paid to her PLAN. She wants their friendship, but not more—her no-nonsense response to them is refreshing.

Other characters that make the story compelling are like sub-contractors that do their specialties in “reconstructing” Charlie. Shelley Jackson, Charlie’s chocolate Barbie, basketball-playing roommate and first girl friend, adds sparkle and vivacity to life like Charlie had never seen. The bond they form is strong and one of trust. The coaches, the nerdy, unique Jerry Khan that helps Charlie’s PLAN along, the wrestlers Tex and Mac, the construction firm owner Ken Duffy, and the remarkable people associated with “The Haven” a sanctuary for women and children all influence Charlie, but none of them absolve Charlie’s sense of guilt or ease the need she has to reconnect with her mother.

Charmaine Gordon’s straight-forward writing style with the undercurrent of suspense makes Reconstructing Charlie spellbinding. The no-frills style keeps the reader focused on Charlie and her PLAN. Even the exquisite descriptions of places like Eleanor and Stuart Alfred’s home, the Shakespeare Gardens at the university are all instrumental in the “reconstructing” of Charlie.

How Charlie comes to terms with her secret, finds peace about it, and how she accepts her mother’s attitude is a thought-provoking part of the story that reveals much about how Charlie, once a shattered child, copes with horrific happenings in life and survives, thrives, and even finds her happy-ever-after. It would take a special treat away from the reading if I told who that special man is for Charlie, but he suits her perfectly.