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27 March, 2008
Bokk Review: A Place to Belong by Paul Miller
Read and reviewed for Front Street Reviews
When eight year old Paul sees his parents returning early from a trip to Florida, the last thing he expects to hear is that his family will be getting smaller, as he and his parents move to Florida. The move means leaving his older siblings (who are married or grown enough to support themselves), and his mentally disabled brother Johnny in Detroit, MI. Paul finds his world spiraling out of control as the move to Florida turns into a zigzagging trip across the country. When they reach California, life settles down enough to allow Paul to return to school, make friends, and hope that the constant uprooting will end.
Then Paul’s mother dies, leaving him with a father who is becoming more violent, and unstable. Believing that his wife had been cheating on him, and that Paul knows who the supposed boyfriend is, he beats Paul for not answering his questions. Paul, deciding enough is enough, borrows the bus fare back to Detroit from one of his older brothers. Unfortunately for him, no one in his family wants him back.
So, he lives in an unhappy situation at his sister Mattie’s house until he finds himself with a choice to make. To stay in Detroit, living with family who don’t want him, or to move to Dearborn, MI and become the foster child to a childless couple named Montayne. Paul chooses the latter, moves and stays with them for a year, until his itch to wander kicks in, along with the slow failure of the Montayne’s marriage.
Paul leaves to hitch hike across the country. He goes from Michigan south, and then heads west again. Finally he finds himself back in California, in the town where his mother died, and his father still lived. Paul was given a chance to try and come to some closure with his father, find out why they had moved so much and to try and find what he wanted with his life.
A Place to Belong is a story of a young man whose life has been turned into turmoil.
We witness Paul as he deals with abandonment as his parents leave him alone for days and weeks at a time, and slowly get caught up in a life of petty theft. It isn’t until Paul meets some very spiritual people in his travels that he starts praying to a god that has suddenly become a more friendly and approachable being. This book deals with some pretty heavy issues as Paul struggles to find the strength in him, and a place where he will finally belong. I found the book to be gripping, and found myself feeling for Paul as his travels bring him from a confused boy of eight to a sixteen year old finally finding his place in the world.