Words is the story of the intersection of two journeys: 10-year-old Kaylee’s journey from pain and abuse to a new life of hope and restoration, and 34-year-old Sierra’s journey from a prison with walls built of her past sins, to healing and redemption. The two meet, changing the course of each of their troubled lives, and through heart-wrenching events and personal discoveries, learn to trust each other and the love of Jesus Christ, who ultimately saves them from the inside out.
This is a story with a light all its own. There is amazing power in a book that is essentially about the horrifying evil that is child sexual abuse, but that never needs to explicitly describe or discuss any details. Ginny Yttrup has a gift for expressing this dark topic without removing hope, a gift with origins in her own painful past and subsequent spiritual redemption and healing.
Plot- The story gripped me immediately. Told from the dual perspectives of Kaylee and Sierra, in alternating chapters, it easily flows forward while often giving glimpses of the past. The book is written almost exclusively in first-person present tense and this gives the story an immediacy which keeps the reader personally involved. Knowing the thoughts, memories, and fears of each of the two main characters adds an element of omniscience and the reader doesn’t just learn about what’s happening, but practically experiences it herself.
Characters- Kaylee is a strong little girl, mature beyond her years for all the wrong reasons. She is smart, thoughtful (she collects “words” in her mind from a dictionary she keeps stashed away), and resilient, but is not without faults. We see her obstinacy and her phobias, and learn of her deepest fears. She is, above all, a lovable, heartbreaking character, and the reader feels her pain, and rejoices with her when her life turns down a new path. Sierra, a woman with a dark past and a well of self-hatred that keeps her from trusting, loving and moving on with her life, is an artist whose work reflects her inner turmoil. After learning of her sins, the reader is taken in by her remorse and becomes her champion, hoping and praying for Sierra to forgive herself and open up to love and renewal. The other more minor characters of the story are no less substantial and add tremendous color and depth to the storyline, and to Kaylee and Sierra’s personal journeys.
Literary quality- The subtle shift of character voice as each chapter moves from Kaylee’s story- shorter sentences, more concrete imagery, to Sierra’s- more artistic and mature thoughts, brings the two stories to life. This is a genuine and flourishing look at the inner lives of these two, and everything fits into one seamless whole- vocabulary, sentence structure, dialogue. The highest praise a reader can give is that nothing distracted from the importance of what was happening to, and happening within, the characters on the page. This is what I experienced reading Words.
Spiritual Content- This book is overtly Christian, redemption for both characters coming through Jesus Christ. Yet, there is no pretense, no struggle, no trying-to-fit-it-in. Every spiritual touch seems to flow organically from the characters- their doubt, their searching, their memories, their letting go.
“When I was thirteen, I was baptized. Mother and Daddy
said it was time to make a public declaration of my belief
in Jesus Christ. So I did.
Today, twenty-one years later, I make that declaration myself
because I want to, because I need to. Because it’s more than
time. Alone before God, I declare that I will trust Him. I accept
the forgiveness that he’s offered all along, and symbolically, I
leave myself- the old Sierra- on the ocean floor.”
I can say without reservation that I recommend this book. Though the subject matter may give you pause, it is ultimately a story of two lives that are intertwined by God to lead each other to the healing they so desperately need.
I wrote this review for another blog, but they ended up not needing it. I liked the book so much, I thought I’d share it here! Enjoy!