Safety and healing, safety and healing. I was interviewed in SLJ a ways back, and one of the questions was about having parents in my book who are, you know, alive, and also loving and engaged with their child. I don’t view that as a requirement for MG fiction, but it is a quality I love about TWO NAOMIS by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick.
TWO NAOMIS is about two girls who live with the aftereffects of divorce, and I have to admit that I was struck by the way the book’s four divorced parents are portrayed. I know from experience that divorce is a difficult, even traumatic experience for the adults involved, and it’s undeniably traumatic for the children involved, but I like it very much that TWO NAOMIS doesn’t frame the pain families experience from divorce in terms of personal failings on the part of the parents. They’re presented very much as people with frailties, strengths, hopes, and desires that are thoroughly, understandably human.
The two Naomis themselves struggle with things that are equally real, and unquestionably huge in the scope of their lives and experiences to date, but they’re not in ULTIMATE PERIL or anything. This isn’t the story of Nine-Fingered Naomi and the Ring of Doom, and I love that, especially during these days of grief and horror. I love the intimate scope of this book, I love its unstinting embrace of everyday humanity, and I love the fact that the girls, despite their very real struggles, are blessed with four collective parents who are involved, engaged, striving, and loving.
The two Naomis live in an atmosphere that never feels devoid of hope, sweet, blessed hope, and the possibility of experiencing safety and healing feels real from start to finish, not just for the Naomis, but also for readers of their story.