Release Date: February 1, 2012
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Publisher: David C. Cook
Pages/Format: 368 (Paperback)
Genre: Historical Christian Fiction
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In Depression-era Mississippi, Millie Reynolds longs to escape the madness that marks her world. With an abusive father and “nothing mama,” she struggles to find a place where she really belongs.
For answers, Millie turns to the gypsies who caravan through town each spring. The travelers lead Millie to a key that unlocks generations of shocking family secrets. When tragedy strikes, the mysterious contents of the box give Millie the tools she needs to break her family’s long-standing cycle of madness and abuse.
Through it all, Millie experiences the thrill of first love while fighting to trust the God she believes has abandoned her. With the power of forgiveness, can Millie finally make her way into the free?
Into the Free is a story that exists in a grey area. Millie’s father is brutally abusive towards her mother, but the author doesn’t reduce him to the role of a stereotypical villain as one might expect. By the end of the novel he reads more as a tragic character—a tortured soul who couldn’t help his violent urges. I have mixed feelings about this. While I fully believe in the concepts of mercy and grace, I feel like Jack was let off the hook for his actions. I don’t want to oversimplify the book by reviewing it as though it were a political statement; it’s just something I thought a lot about while reading it.
Cantrell is an excellent writer and effectively captures the texture of the 1940’s south. Perhaps the book’s greatest strength is that all of the main characters are multi-dimensional. As I wrote in the last paragraph that can get messy, but is ultimately productive in that it forces readers to think outside the box. It’s also a trait that places Into the Free more squarely in the category of literary fiction. The plot is engaging and relatively unpredictable. Based on the beginning trajectory of the story I never would have guessed the direction it ended up taking.
Into the Free is on the INSPYs shortlist this year and it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if it won.
Have you read Into the Free? What did you think?