Praying at the Sweetwater Motel

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9780786854950: Praying at the Sweetwater Motel
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At first, leaving home in the middle of the night seemed exciting to Sarah Jane, an adventure. But she knew they had to go. Her daddy became violent when he drank, and when he hit Sarah Jane, Mama decided it was time to pack up Sarah Jane and her baby sister, and go.Now they're living at the Sweetwater Motel in Ohio. For Sarah Jane, the adventure is over, and reality has set in. Money is tight, nerves are frayed. Sarah Jane misses her old life. She even misses her daddy, although she'd never dare tell Mama. As life becomes more difficult for Sarah Jane at home and at her new school, she begins to regret their escape. Could a motel ever really be home? she wonders. Could they ever be a family without Daddy?

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From School Library Journal:

Grade 5-8-When Sarah Jane's alcoholic father hits her, her long-abused mother has finally had enough; she takes the 12-year-old and her 4-year-old sister and runs off. After a road trip filled with fear, hunger, and frustration, they find a haven at a motel in Dublin, OH, where the elderly owner, Mrs. Sweetwater, makes an offer of housing in exchange for chores. Before long, the girl is faced with the problem of starting a new school and trying to hide the fact that she lives in a motel. She also wishes that her parents would get back together-after all, her father can change, can't he? Sarah Jane is a sympathetic child with a refreshing honesty. At one point she thinks, "At least with two parents you have a spare in case something happens to one of them." Her mix of exasperation with and protectiveness toward her little sister adds to the tone of authenticity. Each chapter is prefaced by a short prayer that reveals Sarah Jane's thoughts about what she thinks will make her happy. Characterization is one of the strong points of this solid novel that shows life with many shades of gray-not even the father is a cardboard villain. The book is a little long and the writing is more workmanlike than literary, but it is leavened by touches of humor and, overall, kids will find the story an absorbing read.
Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist:

Gr. 4-7. In a story that rings emotionally true, 12-year-old Sarah Jane, her younger sister, and her mother flee Georgia to escape Sarah Jane's abusive father. Through a first-person narrative and short prayers to God, Sarah Jane vividly describes the trip and her feelings of being torn between love and fear of her father, and between the safety of escape and fear of the unknown. The three travelers end up in a small Ohio town, at the Sweetwater Motel, where the friendly owner helps them and Sarah Jane face the challenge of creating a new life. The relationship between Sarah Jane and her mother is strong and loving but not without strain, and Sarah Jane eventually reacts to her problems with an understandable fantasy of reuniting her family. Despite a few cliched elements (catty girls and the prayers), which add little, this engaging novel successfully addresses a problem all too many children face. Kathleen Odean
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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9780786818648: Praying at the Sweetwater Motel

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ISBN 10:  0786818646 ISBN 13:  9780786818648
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children, 2003
Hardcover

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