This novel came as a complete surprise. One afternoon when I went down to my mailbox in the school office, I found a package. Upon opening it, I found this book from author Abby Cooper. She had visited my classroom twice this year to talk with my students about her novels Sticks & Stones and Bubbles. This was an ARC she received, read, and passed on to myself and my students. I recently finished it and think I enjoyed it as much as Abby did.
What It Is About: Ruby Clyde Henderson can't quite believe the "situation" she has found herself in. She is in a car with her mother and her new boyfriend who Ruby calls "Catfish". She isn't happy that her mother is with this guy, but is told she is just along for the ride. They end up at a campground where Catfish introduces them to his new "buddy". The next stop finds them in front of a convenience story and Ruby has a bad feeling. When Ruby and her mother realize that "Catfish" and his buddy are up to no good, they attempt to make a bad situation better; but it is too late. Ruby's mother is arrested leaving Ruby alone with her new pet Pig. The last thing her mother tells Ruby is to find her "estranged" aunt who has been out of their life for years. Ruby finds her aunt Eleanor at Paradise Ranch and learns she is a nun living a life alone. After a bit of a rocky start, Ruby and Eleanor get to know each other, share secrets from the past, and try to figure out how best to help Ruby's mother.
What I Thought Of It: I'm so thankful for Abby Cooper sending me this novel as I'm not sure I would have found it on my own. Almost Paradise was a fresh, unique, and "wild" tale. The focus on family, friendship, and support was woven throughout the story and told in a quite a beautiful way. I so enjoyed the cast of characters and reading about their lives, their secrets, and how they each wanted to make the best of a very difficult situation. The plot had humorous, touching, and heart-warming portions making for an extremely pleasing read. The sacrifices that the two sisters offered to each other was quite a beautiful moment to read about. I won't say what that was so as not to spoil it, but just know it was a highlight of reading this book.
Who Should Read It: I looked at Amazon to see what audience this story is being targeted toward. The site stated it was for ages 10-12 (grades 5-7). I teach fourth grade and know that some of my readers will completely enjoy the book. I can't wait to share it with them. Ruby is a character that young readers need to experience. She is one of a kind. Female readers may be drawn to this story more than males. This is Corabel Shofner's first novel and I know readers will enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks to Abby for sharing it with me. Happy Reading!
Rating: 4 STARS out of 5 Stars