4 out of 4 stars
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Being Strong by Jayne M. Simon is a beautiful, Depression-era tale of a young girl named Rose Jones who grows up in an orphanage after losing her parents at the age of nine. Her mother's last request of her was to "be strong." Rose is orphaned with her three sisters, and she is determined to fulfill her mother's request as she continues to face many more hardships, especially when her older sister, Vera, also passes away. As Rose grows, she is a big help with her two younger sisters, as well as many of the other children in the orphanage. One of the babies that Rose becomes attached to, Bella, is adopted by a wealthy couple, the Foreys. Rose becomes fond of the Foreys, and is offered an opportunity by them that she cannot refuse. As Rose grows into a young woman, she continues to "be strong" for her parents and Vera. Rose has been putting this "strength" into caring for others for so many years that she questions whether fulfilling her own growing passions and desires will fit into the definition of "strength" that she has believed in the past.
This is a very beautifully-written story by this author. It is her first book, and she has done an exquisite job of taking the plot and weaving together an amazing story of faith, strength, and love. The characters were created with great depth, and the relationships between various characters felt genuine. I enjoyed witnessing the character of Rose as she grew from a scared young girl into a confident and strong young woman. It was beautiful to see how different people played such an important role in her growth. The connection that Rose had apparently had with her late sister, Vera, was very heart-warming. Sister Monica, the nun who helped raise Rose in the St. Anne's Orphan Asylum, was also a very integral person in Rose's upbringing. Other important character were Mr. and Mrs. Forey and the young child, Bella. All of these characters were so well developed and fit very well into the plot and outcome of the story.
I enjoy stories that are set during times in the past. I especially love when the author can so intricately weave actual events from the past into a fictional story. The book took place during the Great Depression through the early years of the second world war. Many aspects and events of these times were incorporated into the story, particularly at the end. The whole plot was very well-crafted.
This was one of the best, well-written books I've read in awhile. The author has a great talent for creating strong emotions through words. I teared up several times as I was reading, and it was very hard to put down, especially near the end. I felt very attached to the characters by the time I reached the end of the story. There are honestly no negative aspects that I can remember from this book.
I am rating the book 4 out of 4 stars. If you love historical fiction, as well as stories about strength, faith, and overcoming past hardships, check out this book. I will definitely be on the lookout for future books by Ms. Simon.
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