Sunday, October 8, 2017

Book Review: 'Randi's Steps' by Frances Judge

Long Island, NY author Frances Judge originally published this, her debut novel, in 2014 – and with the quality of writing and significance of the story it is a bit amazing she has not completed more novels of this caliber. Initially Frances graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology and worked for Bridal Guide Magazine. According to her biographical information she began homeschool teaching which in turn redirected her writing talents to composing children’s books. She has been published in Clubhouse Jr. Magazine, several anthologies, and Christian homeschooling newsletters: she has written some two hundred short stories and poems.

Frances places her story in the 1970s and early 1980s and true to her familiarity with her own home surroundings the setting is Long Island. Her principal characters are two young girls – Francie and Randi – facing the complexities life tosses during the coming of age period of life. But in the case of these close friends an abrupt change occurs: Randi begins having headaches and what is first an annoyance becomes a diagnostic indication of brain cancer.

Frances’ synopsis distills the story well – ‘If only her life were a story on paper, she could tear it into a million pieces and start over. Francie wishes she could go back to days of running through sprinklers and riding in Randi’s father’s Corvette with the top down. Her life hasn’t been the same since her best friend started battling brain cancer. Francie wants to be loyal and caring to Randi, but when put to the test, she fails. Will their friendship survive the disease that changes everything? Set on Long Island in 1979, Randi’s Steps is a coming-of-age story that goes beyond the expected themes of friendship, boyfriends, and self-doubts. Randi’s Steps exposes the dark places in a young girl’s heart and the challenges of facing the truth about herself.’

What Frances has accomplished in this book is allowing us entry into the horror that cancer and death in childhood permanently imprint the psyches of both victim and the family and friends of that victim. The sensitive manner in which she writes Francie’s relationship to Randi, how the strain of the disease and demands of commitment tainted their relationship, and then how forgiveness and love – and a hefty dose of spirituality – brought closure and hope provide the reader with considerable food for thought. ‘Randi isn’t gone. She just leaped off her steps— straight into heaven. I don’t know what other steps I’ll have to climb, but when I reach the end, I bet Randi will be there, dangling her feet at the top. She’ll hand me a slice of angel food cake swirling with extra-thick chocolate frosting and pink flowers. It will be the beginning.’

Would that every family could read this moving story and learn from the healing aspects Frances so generously shares. This is a strong story, well crafted – a book that deserves a wide audience. Grady Harp, January 17

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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