Between the fast-paced New York City, a rural Mississippi town and a charming Pennsylvania college campus filled with secrets, two young girls learn the consequences of growing up too quickly.
Amalia Graeme, abused by her mother for most of her life, longs to escape her desolate hometown and fall in love. Contemplating her loss of innocence and conflicting feelings between her boyfriend and the dangerous attraction she’s developed for an older man, Amalia faces life-altering tragedies.
Brianna Porter, a sassy, angst-ridden teenager raised in New York City, yearns to find her life’s true purpose, conquer her fear of abandonment, and interpret an intimidating desire for her best friend, Shanelle. Desperate to find the father whom her mother refuses to reveal, Brianna accidentally finds out a shocking truth about her missing parent.
Set in alternating chapters two decades apart, the parallels between their lives and the subsequent collision that is bound to happen is revealed. FATHER FIGURE is an emotional story filled with mystery, romance, and suspense.
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The settings: Father Figure makes use of three distinct settings and the author ensures you feel the difference. The stifling heat and oppression of Mississippi’s Summer make you yearn for Amalia to be free of her home and her cruel mother. The bustle of New York City mirrors the confusion and angst Brianna faces as she teeters on the brink of adulthood, haunted by the mystery of her unknown father. Woodland is open and free and briefly provides a respite for two girls in search of something. Each setting is vividly described and plays a vital role in the development of the story.
Amalia: This girl’s one goal, it seems, is to get away from her abusive mother. What she wants more than anything is to be loved and respected. What she needs is protection. What she finds is grief and suffering. I may not be able to relate to Amalia but I felt for her so deeply. The author creates a very rich character here. The reader is sucked into her aspirations, trials and sorrow. Much of what happens to her, is out of her control. There is a bit of ‘poor me’ sentiment yet she’s a survivor and becomes a ferocious protector of her daughter. Ultimately, she determines her own path.
Brianna: Sometimes I wanted to knock some sense into this one; which is a pretty realistic emotion to have when reading about a teenage girl on the cusp of adulthood. Brianna’s reactions and emotions to some subjects are still that of a child learning to manoeuvre in this world, and can be infuriating. Yet, there are moments of tenderness and maturity that belie her tender age. Her relationship with Shanelle challenges her to understand herself and her own feelings. Brianna’s journey of self-discovery is richly layered and makes for a compelling character.
The dual timeline: Recently, I’ve found many books that make use of either dual time lines or flashbacks in the narrative. Often, I don’t like the flashbacks as I feel they’re pulling me back and I want the story to move forward. James does a masterful job of pushing this story forward even as the chapters alternate from the 1980s to the 2000s. Every chapter of Amalia’s and Brianna’s story pushes the overarching narrative forward. I could never decide which story I wanted to be in more. That’s a good problem to have in a book like this. The alternate chapters also help to build the suspense within both separate but related stories.
I enjoyed the pacing of this novel. The beginning, though it paints the setting for the story, is still intriguing and laced with just enough action to pull you in and demand your attention. Within the last third of the story there are many revelations and the action is amped up. Some of these revelations are expected but several are shockers. It can get a little confusing here but the excitement is just right.
Who is the Father Figure? Who is Brianna’s father? Who was meant to fill that role? What was Amalia searching for? What secrets does Woodland hide? These are some of the juicy questions that will only be answered within the pages of Father Figure. I highly recommend you read the book and find out for yourself.
I give this story 4.5/5 secretive espresso shots.