Still Waters
by Jennifer Lauck

Washington Square Press, New York, 2001. ISBN 074343966X.
Reviewed by Denise McAllister
Posted on 04/15/2004

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Relationships

When I picked up Blackbird, the prequel to Still Waters, I dove in headfirst and found myself submerged in a dark quagmire of childhood abuse, loneliness, and struggle. I didn't even come up for air to notice that the copyright was 2000. After being held captive by the story, I came to the end and learned that the author was working on a sequel. It was a happy day when I searched the Internet to learn more about the author and discovered that the sequel was already out. It was as though I'd been caught in a time warp when I was able to run to the bookstore on the third day of my odyssey with this author and pick up Still Waters.

So what became of little Jenny and her brother, B.J. (or Bryan as he later called himself)? After losing their mother when they were very small and experiencing various family tragedies, could they ever mend their lives and become happy adults?

Without giving away the story, I can say it's not an easy path. They must face even more tragedy and hardship along the way. Jenny and her brother are separated and forced to live with different members of their extended family. Their lack of contact breeds phantoms in their young minds, beliefs that maybe the other sibling is having an easier life, and that he or she doesn't care. Of course, self-preservation is at the top of each child's list of priorities. Jenny and Bryan may think of and want to know about each other, but they must first survive their own lives and combat their own demons.

Rigid aunts and uncles take the kids in, but they already have their own children whom they favor and praise. They also may be more interested in Jenny and Bryan's Social Security checks and servitude than in nurturing them in a loving environment.

There is school to attend, new friends to make, the opposite sex to discover. It's hard enough for a kid with a "normal" childhood to deal with these challenges, but nearly impossible for a scarred, traumatized child living within a dysfunctional support system. After many disappointments, Jenny says, "No one loves me, not really and I might as well face it." She's developing a hard shell to protect herself from future attacks to her heart and psyche.

Was Jenny able to move on with her life, get married, have children, and be happy? Did she ever develop a caring adult relationship with her brother? I've already given away too much of the story so I strongly suggest you read the books in this series. Lauck carefully documents the facts of her tragic young life, weaving them poetically with her writer's pen. She doesn't do this in a "pity me" sort of way. Her website calls for action by parents to spell out in their wills the best possible caretakers for their children. Jennifer Lauck has turned an unforgivable life situation into a positive—for herself and her own children—by educating others about the plight of orphaned children.

Check out our interview with the author of Still Waters.

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