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You Are My Only

by Beth Kephart

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12927156,160 (3.86)3
Tells, in their separate voices and at a space of fourteen years, of Emmy, whose baby has been stolen, and Sophie, a teenager who defies her nomadic, controlling mother by making friends with a neighbor boy and his elderly aunts.
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Emma is not quite right in her head, but she loves her Baby. For her, the infant is just called Baby. She leaves Baby alone in her outdoor swing for just a moment and returns to find her gone. No one believes her story and she is arrested and incarcerated in an insane asylum. Throughout all her years there, she has only one thought “Where is Baby?”

Read more at: http://shouldireaditornot.wordpress.com/ ( )
  ShouldIReadIt | Sep 26, 2014 |
It's kind of bizarre when you feel you're the absolute last person to read a particular book ...and the book hasn't even been officially published yet.

Chalk this phenomenon up to being a book blogger, many of whom (yours truly included) get our kicks out of peeking at books before they hit the streets (or the e-readers). And in this particular case, you can also attribute this "everyone's read it but me" feeling to the wide appeal and popularity of beloved (and immensely talented) author Beth Kephart.

A brief sidebar and disclaimer: Beth has been someone (thanks to our shared Philadelphia connection) who has been on my literary radar for nearly a decade, beginning with her first book, A Slant of Sun. That's a book that has become incredibly special to me, for many reasons. Quietly sitting on my bookshelf, it serves as a beacon of light, of hope. And over the past few years, that role has been transformed to Beth herself (through her books, her blog, her photographs, the snippets of conversation we've had online and in person), as she has become that ray of light, someone whom I have been so fortunate to get to know and to call a friend, someone who has inspired me as a writer, as a mother, as a person in the world.

With all this in mind, I celebrate my friend Beth today as her 13th book, You Are My Only, officially makes its way into this bright world. It is a world that is ready to receive it, judging from the acclaim You Are My Only has already garnered from bloggers and reviewers alike. Advance praise has been enough to push this novel into a second printing, even before publication day.

That's a true accomplishment, a hallmark of a brilliant writer, and - make no mistake - You Are My Only is a novel deserving of all the praise it has received.

You Are My Only is the story of Emmy Rane, a devoted young mother who does what every mother has innocently done: leaves her baby unattended for the briefest of moments. On a still, bright day, outside in the yard while tucked snug in the branches of a tree swing, four month old Baby goes missing. The only trace of her is one single yellow sock.

You can see this unfold because we have all experienced this - a simple act that results in the shifting and forever changing of lives - and you can see this in the opening pages of You Are My Only because Beth Kephart takes you right there. You're with Emmy in her moments of desperate terror (anyone who has ever had a child wander off, gone missing even for mere moments, knows this piercing anguish). You're right there when Emmy's emotionally and physically abusive husband is in her face, accusing her of being a bad mother by causing Baby's disappearance through her carelessness.

From there, You Are My Only alternates between two timeframes and two points of view: Emmy Rane's, as she endures the days and months after Baby's disappearance, and Sophie Marks' (formerly Baby) who is now 14 and living an always-on-the-run-from-the-No-Good life with Cheryl, the only mother she has ever known. Cheryl is protective, a waitress, a possessor of secrets and of knowledge about obscure topics (Archimedean solids, truncated icosahedrons - yeah, I had to look that up too; it's a type of triangle, which is also an apropos symbol for this story) that she is determined to pass along to Sophie by way of homeschooling.

Yet there are other lessons that Sophie and Emmy learn throughout the course of this novel, which gets a infusion through the literary use of color (a Kephart distinction). Yellow is featured predominantly, through the dropped yellow sock left behind from Baby's kidnapping. There's a goldfinch, a yellow flip flop, references to Rapunzel's golden hair, the bright rays of the sun itself.

It is no coincidence that Emmy's last name is Rane; with the novel's rain-streaked cover art and the appearance of yellow and sun throughout the pages of a story of a mother's nightmare, Kephart shows her reader that there are always beacons of light who are with us in the darkest moments and corners of our lives. When we are physically and emotionally broken, a characteristic shared by many of the characters in this novel.

In You Are My Only, these rays of light come to Sophie in the form of her neighbors - sensitive, caring Joey and his delightful Willa Cather-loving, Toll-House cookie-baking, compassionate aunts. (The world would be a much better place - and I mean that in the most emphatic way - if everyone, particularly certain politicians, had an Aunt Cloris and Aunt Helen in their lives. Those of you who have read the novel know what I mean.) For Emmy, these beacons of hope come in the form of Arlen, a watcher of trains and greeter of the day.

"'The first train is the express train,' Arlen declares. 'I like its speed.'

The train screams and pitches. It thunders - such an awful trembling that I do not know how the houses on the banks along the tracks don't shatter up and crumble. My ankle swells in the raging roar. The jacket kicks up in a riffle from my knees until I press it flat with my hands.

'Watch it now,' he says, and he lifts his arm from my shoulder and rises up onto his haunches and balances here beside me in a way I wouldn't have thought he could. He's got something he knows about the miracle of the day's first train, and beside him I bear witness.

'Watch the ridgeline,' he tells me, his voice drowning in the bellows of the train shooting past. When I look up to where he's pointing, I see a streak of tangerine touched down upon the silver-bodied train. Right there, like a horizon line, just as he has promised.

'Daybreak!' he hollers, and now he stands and pumps his fist to the sky, and the long strands of his graying hair get pulled about in the air suck. Finally the wind roars down, and the night has become a veil of shadows. The night isn't night after all; it is first dawn."

The way in which this story unfolds for its reader is beautifully written, with Kephart's signature lyrical prose infusing each page. But when one examines You Are My Only alongside of Kephart's other young adult novels (House of Dance, Nothing But Ghosts, The Heart is Not a Size), all of which I loved for various reasons, there's a quality about this one that makes it stronger than its peers.

Perhaps that is because You Are My Only is a story that reflects the times in which we live. While there have always been hearts-held-captive baby-gone-missing stories in our nation's history (think Lindbergh, think Elizabeth Smart, think Jaycee Dugard) having this fictional one appear now brings a powerful message in these dark days of personal despair and economic uncertainty for so many.

With You Are My Only, Kephart is saying that we have the strength within us to endure the darkness and break through into the light. It is a message that she personally knows well, and it shows - beautifully, triumphantly - in this novel.

Highly recommended.

P.S. This is Beth Kephart's 13th novel, and I own almost all of them. When I have several books by the same author, I usually shelve them books in chronological order. However, with this, I'm breaking my own rule. This one will be taking up residence next to A Slant of Sun.
( )
  bettyandboo | Apr 2, 2013 |
Tells, in their separate voices and at a space of fourteen years, of Emmy, whose baby has been stolen, and Sophie, a teenager who defies her nomadic, controlling mother by making friends with a neighbor boy and his elderly aunts. Summary BPL

Storyline apart—among other things, it confirms the general public’s concerns about people who choose to homeschool—Ms Kephart deserves an award for expertly styled diction. The writing blew me away! You often read reviews where the author’s style is described as poetic, which often means simply vague. It’s never a quality I look for in a novel; it’s called a “novel” and not a “poem” for a reason… But I would have to say that Ms Kephart, like a good poet, wrestles language to the ground and comes up victorious! Her control of vocabulary and innovative usage—she redefines nouns and verbs—are a delight!

The story’s not bad either.

8 out of 10 For fans of mysteries, domestic fiction and skilled writing. ( )
1 vote julie10reads | Jul 29, 2012 |
Looking through the window to a life that goes on without you – a world you’re not allowed to inhabit.

The trees green, the snow falls, a dog barks, close enough to touch but out of reach.

I read the stories of Sophie and Emmy, one beautiful word at a time, savoring the words and images evoked by the poetry Beth Kephart brings to us. Eager to turn the page but yet reluctant to let it go, I read on into the night knowing I needed sleep. How can I turn out the light when Emmy and Sophie yearn for what they can’t have? How can I leave them when they are trapped and alone?

I am close to the end – forty pages to go and I’m weeping. Why? The beauty of the story, the fate of Emmy and Sophie, but most of all I just don’t want this story to end. I want to stay with Emmy and see a reunion too long in the making. Beth Kephart has created characters so real I feel their pain at being torn apart from one another. Feel the love that Emmy has for Baby, the love that Miss Cloris and Miss Helen feel for one another and the fear of being pulled apart.

I reluctantly finish the most beautiful book I’ve read in a very long time, but I joyfully pass it on to the next person on the list.

I beseech you to read You Are My Only, and promise you characters and a story that will live with you for a long time to come.

To Beth – thank you.

To Beth – next time could you write a stable librarian. ( )
  libsue | Jul 12, 2012 |
I seriously read You Are My Only by Beth Kephart in less than 3 hrs. I ate Kephart's words like I was facing starvation. It was THAT good.

The Good: First of all, Beth Kephart's writing is brilliantly unique. The opening chapter takes a few pages to get used to the writing, but the sentences are short, choppy and insanely beautiful. The way the sentences flow match the character, Emmy Rane perfectly. The alternating chapters belong to another character, Sophie and the language/writing of those chapters also match Sophie so well. The minor characters are wonderful, developed thoroughly, even though they are still minor characters and by the end of the novel, I really got a sense of who Emmy and Sophie were. I love that some of the issues in the book are intense but the novel doesn't feel bogged down by the intensity. It's a fairly light read actually despite some of the subject matter. I think the thing I loved most about the novel was that Kephart was able to tell a suspenseful, magical novel without it getting too long, too over dramatic or too depressing. Kephart's story is a fictitious story that gets right to the point. There are no scenes that are extraneous and there is nothing that is out of place. The novel is both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.

The Bad: Not too much bad to say about this novel however I do wish Kephart would have explored Sohpie's mother and the reason she is the way she is. I know we sort of get that, but as a reader, I want more. I want to get into her head and know exactly what she thinks.

Overall...another great book! This is an insanely quick read and I give it an A!

**I received this book free from the publisher through www.netgalley.com I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. ( )
  hankesj | May 5, 2012 |
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Tells, in their separate voices and at a space of fourteen years, of Emmy, whose baby has been stolen, and Sophie, a teenager who defies her nomadic, controlling mother by making friends with a neighbor boy and his elderly aunts.

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