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The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance    by Catherine Ryan Hyde order for
Year of My Miraculous Reappearance
by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2009 (2007)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Thirteen-year old Cynthia's three-year-old brother Bill has Downs Syndrome - 'A lot of people thought Bill wasn't very cute ... I think they didn't look at him right. He had the biggest, sweetest brown eyes'. Cynnie's mother is an alcoholic, who doesn't take care of her daughter, let alone Bill. Mom drinks most of the time, and also forgets what she is saying in mid-conversation. Older sister Kiki (Loretta) moved out some time ago. She lives nearby but does not help.

Mom's alcoholic boyfriends come and go through a 'revolving door'. Cynnie's friends from school are Rickie and Snake, boys who escape with her at times to her tree house. Cynnie worries that her grandparents will take Bill away. Though she begs Nanny to take her too, grandma insists that Cynnie must take care of Mom. Cynnie attempts to escape with Bill, but the sheriff picks them up and returns them home. She knows that Bill will feel abandoned by her, as the grandparents pack him up and leave the next morning, Bill calling out 'Thynnie, Thynnie'.

Cynnie's life seems to get darker and heavier. She turns to her first beer, then more beer, eventually snitching Mom's bottles of gin. She begins searching for money to buy alcohol, and gets down to silver dollars that her dad had given her when she was three. While talking with Snake, she learns that he is abused by his father. They plan to run away as Snake has a car, though neither has a driver's license. Cynnie insists that they go to her grandparents' home for Bill; 'She just wanted to disappear'.

Cynnie insists on doing the driving as she drinks from a bottle of granddad's scotch. Stopped for speeding, Cynnie loses Bill again. She is court-ordered to attend AA meetings and must report to a probation officer. Cynnie remains in denial, and her arguments with Mom escalate. Cynnie ponders 'How much life feels like sandpaper and how much I hate to feel ... I let everything slide, like my mom does. If she could do it, so could I.'

Catherine Ryan Hyde portrays life's realities up-front and personal. The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance is as powerful as it is touching, as readers enter a life of addiction from the perspective of a teen girl, seeing its consequences for all in a family. The author's words reveal what it takes to climb upwards from a downward spiral, 'one step at a time', through Cynnie's internal conflict. This is a heavy, heady novel to be devoured by young as well as adult readers.

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