Monday, December 18, 2023

The Wishing Game

The Wishing Game
  The Wishing Game
Author:  Meg Shaffer
Publication Information:  Ballantine Books. 2023. 304 pages.
ISBN:  0593598830 / 978-0593598832

Rating:   ★★★★

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Every night, Hugo went for a walk on the Five O'Clock Beach, but tonight was the first time in five years his wandering feet spelled out an SOS in the sand."

Favorite Quote:  "There is nothing braver than a child asking for help. And bravery like that deserves rewarding."

This book, in its own text, described how I feel. "Writing that book changed my life. Reading it changed yours. And all of us, I think are hoping one of my books will changes ours lives again. The stories write us, you see. We read something that moves us, touches us, speaks to us and it ... it changes us."

I believe that each reader reads a different book, perhaps a different one than even the author intended. For each one of us, as readers bring to every book we read, each time we read it, all that we are. That is also why I think we never read the same book twice. For each time, we are different at a different point in time.

This book had me at the books on the cover, the title about wishes and games, and the description of a dream and the possibility of making that dream come true. The final acknowledgement - "Really, Andy, this book is for you and for all the kids, who, in dark times, find a light shining from the pages of books." - draws me in further for I am someone who has always turned to books for comfort and solace. Finally, the author's postcript - "Kids, don't run away from home" - intrigues me even further.

Although set in a fictional place brought to life and among children's stories, this is not a children's book. The main character, Lucy, is a 20-some-year-old adult with adult issues and adult aspirations. She wishes to adopt as a single parent and must find the financial stability to qualify as a foster parent. She wishes to give Christopher a home, a family and love. The books speaks a lot to adult responsibilities to the children of the world - an important conversation that should be repeated often until all children are safe:
  • "Kids with hard lives deserved gentle words."
  • "Any parent who makes their kid feel unwanted has something wrong with them."
  • "Always remember that the only wishes ever granted are the wishes of brave children who keep on wishing even when it seems  no one is listening because someone always is. Someone like me. Keep wishing. I'm listening."
  • "Why do only brave kids get their wishes granted? ... Because only brave children know that wishing is never enough. You have to try to make your own wishes come true."
That being said, some of the depictions in the book are unrealistic about the foster and adoption system. Lucy is a teacher. Yet, the descriptions of one on one interactions and physical contact with a student likely cross a lot of boundaries in place to protect children. The social worker working on Christopher's case outlines the reasons that Lucy would not be considered a candidate for fostering - lack of financial stability, lack of transportation, and lack of independent housing. From the social work perspective, Lucy claims to love Christopher, but is her situation one that can support a child? I want to believe that love conquers every obstacles, but I also believe that the rules of the system, working properly, are to protect a child.

Clearly, Lucy is the heroine of this book, and I empathize with the character. I want to say that as long as the love is there, all else can be worked out. However, the depiction of the system and the role of teachers and social workers does a potential disservice to the dedicated individuals in those professions.

That being said, this is a book that makes me want to suspend my disbelief and my logic and completely embody the world of Clock Island where wishes can come true if we keep wishing and keep working to make those wishes come true.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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