Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Children of the Street

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Children of the Street

Article excerpt

CHILDREN OF THE STREET Anonymity, by Janna McMahan. Köehler Books.

INTRIGUING AND believable characters are part of what makes Janna McMahan's new novel Anonymity a memorable read. Through the story, which is set in Austin, Texas, the author provides a well-constructed and evenly paced plot that brings to light critical themes around home and homelessness.

Early in the story we discover classic con- trasts between the two protagonists. Lorelei is a young, homeless runaway whose daily grind revolves around finding food and a warm, safe place to sleep, while Emily's major mission centers on branching out from her bartending job to take up a more artistic endeavor as a photographer. One buys organic greens from the high-end Whole Foods Market, while the other seeks sustenance in restaurant dumpsters.

This interesting juxtaposition of char- acters reels us in. But as we swim through the thickening plot, we discover the star- tling similarities between the two: Lorelei's rebelliousness and grit compared to Emily's disdain for the superficial lifestyle of big- box shopping and Corpus Christi vacations; Lorelei's refusal to seek help and get off the streets weighed against Emilys desire to break from the overindulgence she grew up around. As Emilys mother, Barbara, observes, "Emily liked the frayed edges of life, a little dirt in the cracks." It should come as no surprise that Emily takes an interest in Lorelei's hardscrabble existence.

So much about Lorelei remains a mystery, which serves to add tension and compel the reader forward. We sense she is searching for something, and there's no way to prepare for the powerful punch McMahan delivers when we discover what Lorelei's quest is about.

At the same time, we follow Emily on a kind of hunt of her own-a hunt for freedom from the status quo as she attempts to sepa- rate herself from materialistic parents and a society that insists happiness requires a col- lege degree, a high-paying job, marriage, and children. …

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