My Ra­dio Ra­dio

Jessie van Eer­den

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - MICHELLE ANNE SCHINGLER

West Vir­ginia Univer­sity Press Soft­cover $16.99 (212pp) 978-1-943665-08-2

Its pages are sharp­ened by con­trasts—be­tween the dull na­ture of a reg­i­mented re­li­gious ex­is­tence, and the col­or­ful needs of a young girl.

In a com­mu­nal home in a quiet In­di­ana town, be­tween four walls painted in wildly dif­fer­ent

colors, Omi Ruth works to come of age. Jessie van Eer­den’s My Ra­dio Ra­dio details Omi’s in­ten­tional awak­en­ings in pi­quant, em­pa­thetic prose.

Omi wakes one morn­ing to find her­self at the thresh­old of adult­hood, her in­sides an­nounc­ing her pres­ence there in a way she can­not out­run. A bowl tips in­side of her; she learns that her beloved older brother has been killed in a car crash; she en­coun­ters her first love, her “silent sil­ver-white,” in an un­locked bed­room down the hall. In a mat­ter of hours, she must grap­ple with be­ing newly alone, freshly needed, and demon­stra­bly no longer a child.

A new house­mate, Tracie, who con­ceals more than one se­cret be­neath her heavy sweaters, pushes Omi’s bound­aries even more, forc­ing her to con­front both her iso­la­tion and the na­ture of love, par­tic­u­larly con­sid­ered within the shel­tered re­li­gious en­vi­ron­ment of Solomon’s Porch. As Omi and Tracie’s bond deep­ens, and as the com­mu­nity’s se­crets come more and more to light, Omi must come to terms with both the lim­i­ta­tions im­posed by her unique home life, and the prob­a­bil­ity that its odd move­ments be­gan from a kind of love whose ho­li­ness she has not be­gun to fathom.

Van Eer­den’s is a story of strained ado­les­cence, made all the more com­plex by the de­mands of the small re­li­gious com­mu­nity at its cen­ter. Its pages are sharp­ened by con­trasts—be­tween the dull na­ture of a reg­i­mented re­li­gious ex­is­tence, and the col­or­ful needs of a young girl; be­tween the abil­ity to imag­ine great and mag­i­cal bursts of beauty, and the sti­fled aware­ness of the un­en­gaged world be­yond one’s front door. Char­ac­ters are drawn in all of their pe­cu­liar­ity, with such hon­esty that even those who seem out­wardly small-minded are af­forded depth. A reclu­sive preacher is not just a preacher; a bound­ary-push­ing neigh­bor may be ca­pa­ble of kind­ness af­ter all. Even Omi Ruth, who longs for wings, ends up find­ing that there are things on the ground worth her time.

My Ra­dio Ra­dio is a lovely, chal­leng­ing, and fair-minded ap­proach to the par­tic­u­lar depths of those who pop­u­late small spir­i­tual sects.

Smed­ley’s ac­tions are mo­ti­vated by in­jus­tice, in­equal­ity, revo­lu­tion against the rich and pow­er­ful, sex­u­al­ity, and a hunger for knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing of the world around her. From pi­o­neer to re­porter to spy, and through many call­ings in be­tween, Smed­ley had a ver­i­ta­ble vagabond spirit, able to be con­tained by no man, ide­ol­ogy, or po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

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