One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt is a touching story about the transformative power of love.
The social worker picks Carley Connors up from the hospital and takes her to a foster home. Carley has visions of Cinderella-esque drudgery or being made to sleep in the basement and live on saltines and ketchup, but she finds herself completely unprepared for the kindness and welcome that she receives from the Murphys. Julie Murphy, the mother of the family, takes Carley into the heart of the family, even though Carley is hard, prickly, and obviously emotionally damaged. Over the course of the novel, both the Murphys and the reader learn the tragic truth of what led to Carley's placement in foster care, and they see Carley grow as she learns, for the first time in her life, what a functioning family looks like. Will Carley be able to stay and become part of the Murphy family forever?
I'm warning you now, this is a bit of a tear-jerker. Hunt does an excellent job of portraying Carley's emotional struggles, and by the end of the book the reader really feels Carley's dilemma. I also appreciate the complexity of the secondary characters -- despite their almost idyllic home life, the Murphy family is not perfect, and even Carley's mother is not a one-note baddie (though she is one of the less-developed characters, since she is seen only through Carley's memories for most of the book). Readers who enjoy emotionally evocative stories of children who triumph over difficult situations will find a lot to love in this story.
(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)