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Breathe My Name    by R. A. Nelson order for
Breathe My Name
by R. A. Nelson
Order:  USA  Can
Razorbill, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Lyn Seippel

'Please come right away. We need to finish,' These horrifying words written to her by her mother change Frances' life. She must now face a past that still haunts her dreams.

Until she is seven, Francine's dad comes home infrequently, leaving his family in a house without neighbors. Her mother builds an imaginary world for Francine and her little sisters. It is only later, after her mother is taken away for killing Francine's sisters, that others realize her mother's insanity.

Francine becomes Frances. She lives a quiet life with her adopted parents far from the place her mother called Fireless. She is encouraged to forget, but how can she forget the day her mother killed her sisters and tried to kill her?

The story begins eleven years later. Frances, a junior in high school, has her first boyfriend. Nix, a transfer student from New Orleans, is different from anyone she has ever met. Although she trusts him, Frances finds it hard to tell him about her past, but she is happy and content until she receives a letter delivered by her mother's lawyer. Her mother wants to see her.

Her mother's note is frightening but Frances believes she must face their shared past. Usually honest and a rule follower, she devises a plan so that overly protective parents believe she is going on a school rafting trip. With Nix as her driver, she goes back to Tennessee to find her mother. She and Nix use the only clue they have to start their search.

Frances' story alternates between her past life in mythical Fireless and the present. She remembers the media frenzy, living with a friend of the family while her daddy is away during her mother's trial, and finally being adopted by a loving family in Alabama.

Nelson's characters are as complex as the journey Frances undertakes to come to terms with her mother's actions. The characters are southern without the stale characterization often used to portray the South. Breath My Name will grip you until the startling conclusion.

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