Making Manna: Eric Lotke
Everyone knows their place in this world and everyone has to learn where they belong. Some find it difficult to be out on their own while others are given no choice. This is a story of survival, courage, love, friendship and loyalty of a young fourteen year old girl named Libby Thompson who was cast aside by her family, forced to live on her own and hopefully wind up on her feet after giving birth to a son. Instead of succumbing to the mores of others and going towards drugs or even selling drugs, Libby turns to the police for help and when telling them her plight it takes a while before they steer her in the right direction. With a father who abused her and a mother who turned a blind eye she was determined to bring up her child in an atmosphere of safety and love. Going to the shelter she meets some really nice people but when Sheila and her daughter Monet arrive it was like blessing from heaven or the making of the first Manna in her life without her even realizing it. Understanding the rules of the shelter and learning that she had to leave after three days and find her own lodgings they allowed her to remain there to sleep, take care of her son and figure out where to go from there. No one is allowed to remain in the shelters during the day. They are told are given breakfast and dinner but have to fend for themselves the rest of the day by looking for a place to live and a job. But, where was she going to go with a newborn child? When Sheila meets Libby for some reason they blend and form a special alliance that would change and strengthen with time. Going to live with Sheila, upping her age to 17, having to work for low wages cleaning houses, she begins to fall into a tempo or routine. But, not everything goes as planned as the police are after Sheila, trying to find her ex-boyfriend Zeb and will do everything in their power including knocking down and breaking their door in order to find contraband and drugs. Disappointment made it worse and of course they had to pay for the door’s repairs.
Libby and Sheila bond together, will help each other and Monet, Sheila’s daughter is warm, smart and promises to always help out and respects Libby not only as a mother but a friend. Angel is her special child and early one we realize that he is astute, smart, enterprising and knows how to turn a buck but in an honest way. Finding herself working two jobs one cleaning and the second in a restaurant at night, Libby starts to earn money, save and hopefully find a place of her own. But, things get tough and even though they are honest, hard working and want the best for both Angel and Monet something will change and their bonds will be tested and once again this girl with no real ties or past will have to take hold of herself and hope to succeed.
Angel is smart and when Monet gives him some special Starburst candy to take to school and the school bully goes after him for it what he does is priceless and becomes what some might think a bootleg candy business while others a way to help out at home. The candy business was big even the teachers would buy from his stash and the bullies soon learned not to pick on him and one became a friend. Things changed, as he got older and although the candy business waned after a while he managed to find another enterprise but not before the police can and banged on their door and took both Sheila and Zeb away in handcuffs. With a lawyer who took all of their money and was corrupt they wound up with sentences that did not fit the crime and no way to get out or escape.
Monet remained with Libby and she and Angel became a family but things were difficult and she managed to complete school, Angel forged ahead by working with his mother at the restaurant and making bread, which would be the turning point of his life. ?
A simple phone call that Angel picks up will change it all and a project in school will bring Libby’s past front and center. But, when Angel asks the simple questions about her family, parents and where he comes from the answers given are meant to silence him and not pursue any further. With Angel finding his way to helping Libby every night at her job and her boss finding out what they were doing something happens that might bring them both some joy what will it last? With Zeb getting his law degree in prison, helping other inmates with their appeals and winning can he do the same for himself and Sheila who were wrongly accused and arrested by a corrupt police force?
Added in Angel confides in his mother about a problem one of his classmates is having with kids bullying and ridiculing her and the reasons why send Libby into action and what she does will surprise readers and make Angel really proud of his mother.
An ending that is heartfelt, a young boy named Angel that readers will fall in love with and whose moral values, loyalty to Monet is quite compelling as he works hard not for his own benefit but to help her have money to call her mother when the prison allows, to see her and take the trip that would change her life and to make a promise that she will pursue college and not give up. So many young people like Monet in her situation might turn to the streets and drugs. Read this outstanding novel and see what happens when Angel and Monet decide to teach other young adults a lesson: Do not let your circumstances dictate who and what you are? Do not let your monetary worth let people define you? You can do anything if you want and watch what happens when Libby comes face to face with her past. Will she find it in her heart to forgive the one person who turned a blind eye on her? Will she find love? The last page says it all.
Powerful, heartfelt, compelling and one of the best books I have had the honor or reviewing in a long time. Young adults and adults can take a lesson from Libby, Angel, Monet, Sheila and Zeb: Never give up on you!
Fran Lewis/Just reviews/MJ Magazine