Wanna feel like you’ve just been punched in the stomach? Ever wonder what would have happened to Bob and Mayella Ewell from To Kill a Mockingbird if Bob would have lived? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, Being Fishkill is a must-read.
Carmel Fishkill was born in the backseat of a moving car not far from the Carmel/Fishkill exit in New York. That’s got to be the saddest naming story I’ve ever heard and the worst name I have ever heard and it’s so fitting for the early life of this poor, neglected girl. At the age of thirteen, Carmel’s (who renames herself Fishkill) life changes when she makes her first real friend - a girl named Duck-Duck. Duck-Duck is crazy smart, confident, and loved. She welcomes Fishkill to her home where Fishkill is able to enjoy many experiences that most of us take for granted: a hot, home-cooked meal; clean, crisp sheets on a mattress; a mother’s love. As Duck-Duck’s mom, Molly, learns more about Fishkill’s home life (if you can call it that), Molly becomes more involved in Fishkill’s life and Fishkill becomes more attached to both Duck-Duck and Molly. When Fishkill’s mom enters into the picture, it’s a recipe for disaster. Actually, disaster doesn’t even really cover it.
As I hinted at the beginning of this review, it’s a painful, painful read, but it’s a hopeful one, too. As Fishkill flashes back to her childhood being raised in a literal dump by her racist, disgusting, hate-filled grandfather and her spineless, dejected, brainwashed mother, I couldn’t help thinking of Bob and Mayella Ewell and how, had he lived and had Mayella gotten pregnant, their life would have been very similar to Fishkill’s grandfather and mother. Yuck. This book will appeal to those teens who love tragedies and stories of abused or neglected children. Perfectly appropriate for middle school readers, too (a mild scene or two featuring body exploration).