Beyond the Green

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 19 Jul 2018

Member Reviews

DNF
Couldn't get into it. I don't review books I don't finish as I don't believe it would be a fair judgement.
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Beyond the Green by Sharlee Mullins Glenn is a story about the author’s childhood experience. In 1979 Britta has found that her foster sister, Dori, will be going back to her birth mother. Britta loves her foster sister and the story is about Britta trying to keep her sister and learning what family means. 

Beyond the Green tackles a difficult subject. Dori is from an Indian Reservation and was taken from her mother to live with a white foster family because of alcohol problems.  Britta learns not just to think of her own wants but to broaden her vision and think of other people and other cultures. Sometimes there was a bit to much lecturing. I like to be shown rather than told.

Britta was cute and I loved her spunk and her love for her family.
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Reading the author notes puts this one in a lot of context. The personal connection really comes through in the plot. 

At heart this is a story about coming to terms wit hthe world you live in, recognizing prejudice,. And the many ways you define a family.
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I started this one but never got around to finishing it. I wasn’t quite hooked. I think if you are looking to teach / integrate a dynamic conversation about American hiistory and how Native lives matter— there are better options out there. The premise of this book is already one that is heavy (a white family adopts a Native baby). That is a very real part of American history and stories today so readers should be prepared for how they might feel about the premise of this one. Thanks to the publisher and the author for sharing this book with me.
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Beyond the Green follows Britta, a Mormon girl, whose family is fostering a Native American child. They rename her "Dori" and care for her for four years while her mother goes through rehab for alcoholism. Once Dori's mother is released and ready to take her daughter back, Britta does everything she can to keep Dori in her family. 
This book was difficult for me to read. I know it is supposed to be historical fiction, but Britta's point of view was pretty problematic, especially at the beginning when she spouts off many racist ideas about Native Americans and the climax when she fights to keep Dori to herself. I get that this is a story of growth for a white girl, but the Native character was used as a pawn in Britta's personal growth trajectory. Yikes. 
Yes, it was beautifully written. There are beautiful moments of familial love, and Britta is always challenged by her grandfather to rethink her problematic notions... but the premise wasn't carried out in a very sensitive way in my opinion. It reads very 1990's to me, and since we're in 2018, stories about celebrating our differences and finding common ground need to be more deftly told.
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The following review of BEYOND THE GREEN was published on my blog (blogginboutbooks.com) on 10.23.18:

When Chipeta Uncarow, an infant from the Ute tribe, is abandoned by her mother, the Twitchells gladly take her in.  A treasured member of the big Mormon family, Chipeta (known as Dori) fits in so seamlessly that the Twitchells long to adopt her.  Eleven-year-old Britta Twitchell is especially fond of her foster sister, now four years old, and can't imagine life without little Dori.  When Dori's mother reappears, now ready to parent her daughter, Britta's incredulous.  How can a woman who cared so little about her baby just waltz in and reclaim her?  Dori already has a family, a family who adores her and takes care of her.  The Twitchells can't really be expected to just hand over their beloved sister and daughter.  Can they?

Britta can't believe that soon Dori will be living on the Uintah-Ouray Indian Reservation with her birth mother.  It's so not fair!  The rest of her family might be going along with it, but Britta will stop at nothing to make sure Dori stays at home where she belongs.  However good her intentions are, however, Britta soon finds herself in real trouble.  Now, in order to save Dori's life, she'll have to think beyond—beyond the lush green of her small farming community, beyond what she wants, and beyond her limited view of what it means to be a family.

Beyond the Green by Sharlee Glenn is a touching, semi-autobiographical novel that asks some important questions about family, cultural identity, and the rights of people involved in foster care.  The tender, heartbreaking story is handled with both authenticity and sensitivity, telling an all-too-common tale with care.  Full of flawed but sympathetic characters; enough action and conflict to keep young readers engaged; and some strong, meaningful lessons; Beyond the Green is a solid read that I highly recommend to anyone who
enjoys realistic middle grade fiction.

(Readalikes:  Hm, nothing is coming to mind.  You?)

Grade:  B

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG for scenes of peril and some difficult subject matter (alcoholism, child abandonment, etc.)

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Beyond the Green from the generous folks at Charlesbridge via those at Netgalley.  Thank you!
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This story really appealed to me, as I felt that it hit so close to home as we consider whether we would like to be a foster family.  Fostering can break and grow a family, and that is exactly what this story was about.

The story is about a sweet girl named Britta, whose family takes in a little Indian girl named "Dori" after an unfortunate situation.  Britta and her family become very attached to Dori and fast forward to four years later, Dori's mom wants her back.   Since the story takes place in 1979, this is before the Indian Child Welfare Act and Britta and her family are unable to legally adopt Dori.  This is a beautiful story of a family just trying to stay together and tackling many difficult obstacles along the way.

This is a wonderful story that I can't wait to share with my own daughters as we consider our own foster care journey.

Thank you to my friends at NetGalley who gave me an advanced copy of this story in exchange for my honest review.
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I understand this is semi-autobiographical and respect Sharlee Glenn for sharing her family's story, but that is the only real positive I have to share.

I really wanted to DNF this very early on, but I kept going hoping it would improve only to be disappointed.
The story was not bad, but it was not told clearly. Throughout the book, I was often confused about what was going on or why and it was not until the end that it started to make sense. I also was not a fan of the narration/POV making this book not enjoyable for me read.
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This 1970s-era story is based on real-life happenings and told from the perspective of a young Mormon girl named Brittania (AKA Britta) Twitchell. Britta is angry that her Native American foster sister, Dori (AKA Chipeta), is being placed back with her birth mother after living with the Twitchells for over four years. Throughout the story, Britta spouts judgmental or even racist thoughts and feelings toward her foster sister’s family of origin. But time and time again, they’re met with a strong rebuttal from her wise and loving grandfather who teaches her that being from different cultures and doing things differently doesn’t mean one way is better than the other. Britta is also encouraged with sage and peaceful advice from her Aunt Mariah — her only family member who went straight through college and master’s work instead of settling down and having a family. 

What is clear is that Britta is willing to concoct and carry out whatever plans necessary to keep Dori/Chipeta from returning to her biological family. While some of her plans are absolutely outrageous, there are desperate moments of heartbreaking beauty. We are reminded, throughout, that family is not limited to blood. And it’s clear that this book is ultimately a love letter from the author to her little sister (who in real life went by the name Gina).

Beyond the Green was quite insightful for being a historical fiction novel AND for having been written over 20 years ago. As would have been true of that time period, the characters continually refer to Native Americans as “Indians.” It is difficult to swallow Britta’s initial racism — it’s very open and honest, yet always met with firm guidance and education as she grows in tolerance and understanding. I was also surprising that the child’s name was changed by her foster family. This would never be allowed, today, but it's further evidence of the lack of oversight in the foster system of the early 70s. 

From reading the Author’s Note, I see there was a good bit of contribution and oversight by local Native American organizations and from a long list of people who helped during the editing process, including those from the Ute Tribal Offices, the Ute Language Center, from the Navajo tribe, another individual from the Ute tribe, and a thorough reading with helpful feedback from the Director of Utah’s Division of Indian Affairs and Rising American Indian Nations. In the final section of her note, Sharlee Mullins Glenn writes:

"While this is just one story, all of our stories are meaningful and compelling–layered, intricate, byzantine, full of heartbreak and joy and piercing beauty. My hope for all of us who enter into these stories is that we may learn to see beyond our own biases, beyond the tight little circles of our own experience, beyond the green."

I was very guarded while reading, because I could just imagine the issues based on its publication being abandoned. However, I would say it stays true to the behaviors and beliefs of the 70s (as awful as they were). It makes no excuses for these thoughts and doesn't attempt to hide blatant racism and systematic bias. With some cutting of sharp edges (language and open acknowledgements), this story is not beyond redemption. I’m curious to see if Glenn will eventually have a re-instated contract after some collaborative publication team work.

NOTE: I wasn’t even sure if I was going to review this title on my blog since it’s no longer available. But then I found out that an earlier edition of this real life story was published in 1998 under the title Circle Dance. I’ve not read the first edition, so I cannot say how much has changed in the new one (except that the updated version is much longer). I just thought I would mention it in case others are interested in hunting down a copy to learn more about Glenn’s real-life experiences. I did find the story fascinating and wanted to know which portions were true to history and which were fictionalized. 

My thanks to Netgalley and Charlesbridge Publishing for the E-ARC. 
A copy of this review can be found on my blog and also on my Goodreads account.
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I got this book via NetGalley

Really racist and kinda ableist.

First of all, I know it says she had sensitivity readers on the acknowledgements. But I also know, as a latina, how it feels to want to just be accepted by white gringxs. To have your story told, one way or the other. To want to be represented at all costs. And I don't think three sensitivity readers were enough for this book AT ALL, no matter who they were.

First of all, "Indians" used to refer to native Americans (and here I'm talking about America the continent) is a colonialist word. Columbus came here thinking he had arrived to India, so he called the natives "Indians", and so did every european colonizer that came after him. I think it's a very, VERY basic thing to know. People from India are Indians. Natives are Navajo or Aztecs or Mapuches, etc.

The first word used to present the twin aunts is "slow", mentally speaking. Which is awful. Don't ever do that to anyone bc it's ableist.

I think it's SUCH a white people thing to think that they can own someone from a different culture if they just try hard enough, even children. The author should've gotten over this already, and the discourse in this book tells me she hasn't. The MC has a deeply rooted racism way of thinking, and it's not really challenged at all until she magically starts liking SOME natives, and at that point it's not really even challenged, she just "changes" (lmao as if). There's the "I don't hate natives, I have native friends!", the thinking every native she doesn't like is a drunk, the cursing the law that says non-native adults can't foster native children, denying Chipeta of her identity and heritage... it's just a lot.

Also, not talking like I researched it or anything but knowing the US I'm SO sure native children were stripped away from their parents under stupid invented excuses like being a drunk or violent or "not fit to be a parent" or some bullshit like that.

I'm so done with this book. I don't even know why I requested it 3+ months ago.

White people, you don't own shit.
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I am interested in reading this teen story from his description. Really the description is very touching. And in the end I admit that this story is full of sensitive issues. The author also has a truly real experience. It was all that made me have to look for what notes from the author, preface and various other notes from this story.
The story took place in 1978, when the Law on the care of American Indian children was established. Then the position of the white race felt to be the strongest. They know what to do with these children. They treat and nurture in their own way. It all hurts because it doesn't match where the children come from.

A young girl named Britta Twitchell who had an Native American sister from the US-Ouray Indian Reservation in Utah, who was later named Dorinda. Then they call Dorinda to be Dori. Really Dori actually has the original name, Chipeta, which is actually more beautiful than Dori.

Dori has a troubled mother (Irene Uncarow), lives with alcohol. But now it has changed and her mother has recovered and looks better. Because of that her mother wanted Dori to return to her arms.
Britta, who from the beginning was made the main character in the story, became the first person to reject all these ideas. She did not want her sister to be taken again and she thought Dori's mother was not at all fit to do that. Then what happened was very surprising. Britta kidnaps Dori, they run away and begin to plan for Irene. The story was really made so that Irena could not take her biological child again. I feel funny and also a little amazed by Britta. She was only a very young child, not knowing too much and surprisingly Britta grew up with plans that seemed mature.

Overall this book is indeed impressive. This is filled with true stories, touching characters, complex problems and of course with alcohol and race conflicts. In another part of the storyline, readers are always surprised by Britta's plans.

The few things that make me feel heavy with this book are issues of religion and race. Then in some parts feminism issues also emerged which were more shocking. But if you look more deeply, I actually fall in love with the story of this novel.

The issues and sensitive issues in this novel are also good for young children's lessons. And problems will essentially open our minds. I really recommend this reading for middle-aged children as well as adults. Thanks to Charlesbridge, Sharlee Glenn, and of course NetGalley.
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Saturday, July 18, 2018

Dear Charlesbridge,

It's not too late for you to make a decision about releasing Sharlee Glenn's Beyond the Green. From what I see, it is scheduled to come out on October 2, 2018.

This is an Open Letter, which means that I hope others will read it and think hard before publishing stories about fostering or adoption of Native children. Let me explain why I think you need to take this action.

In Beyond the Green, Sharlee Glenn is telling a story about her own life. When she was a child, her family took in a Ute baby. In her author's note, Glenn tells readers that the baby (Gina) was five months old. She doesn't give us details about how social services selected Glenn's family as a placement for Gina. And she doesn't tell us how Gina left their home to rejoin her Ute mother.

What she does tell readers is that "Before 1978, children like Dori [Dori is the fictional Ute child in Beyond the Green] who were removed from their homes because of neglect or abuse..."

Here's why that sentence is a problem. Some children are removed from their homes because of neglect or abuse. In every demographic in the US, there are parents who are neglectful or abusive of their children. For their safety, those children are appropriately removed from their parents homes. 

But!

Prior to 1978, Native children were being taken from their homes at astonishing rates. Were Native parents worse than others? Of course not. A four year investigation into these removals led Congress to pass the Indian Child Welfare Act.

In her author's note, Glenn tells readers a little bit about the law. I imagine that she thinks her note is helpful...

But!

Those readers will have read 230 pages of a White child's pain. Who causes that pain? ICWA and the Ute mother and grandmother.

The scant information in that author's note is not just thin--it is also incorrect. The most helpful action I can take right now is to ask people to read about the law from people who know what it says.

To start, take a look at the website of the National Indian Child Welfare Association. There, you will read that ICWA's intent was to protect the best interests of Native children, and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families.

You can also read the section on ICWA in Matthew Fletcher's Federal Indian Law (2016). Fletcher is a lawyer, and a law professor at Michigan State University. Because his book is written in a way that I think is accessible to people who aren't trained as lawyers, I highly recommend it. Here's an extensive passage from the section about ICWA:
Congress enacted the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in 1978, after more than four years of hearings, deliberation, and debate, in order to alleviate a terrible crisis of national proportions—the “wholesale separation of Indian children from their families….” Hundreds of pages of legislative testimony taken from Indian Country over the course of four years confirmed for Congress that many state and county social service agencies and workers, with the approval and backing of many state courts and some federal Bureau of Indian Affairs officials, had engaged in the systematic, automatic, and across-the-board removal of Indian children from Indian families and into non-Indian families and communities. State governmental actors following this pattern and practice removed between between 25 and 35 percent of all Indian children nationwide from their families, placing about 90 percent of those removed children in non-Indian homes. 
In a 1973 federal case involving children arising out of the Hannahville Indian Community, Wisconsin Potawatomies v. Houston, a tribal expert witness, Dr. James Clifton, “testified that the assumption of jurisdiction in forced adoption by white courts is a matter of great bitterness among the Indian community.” Michigan Indians grow up with oral traditions and stories about the day that a state or church authority figure would show up at the family’s house to take away Indian children. In 1974, a representative of the Native American Child Protection Council, based in Detroit and serving urban Indians, alleged before Congress that state officials had engaged in the “kidnapping” of urban Indian children. By the 1970s, one out of 8 Indian children in Michigan were adopted out of their families and communities, a rate 370 percent higher than with non-Indians.
A critical aspect to the legislative history of ICWA is the “wholesale” and automatic character of Indian child removal by state actors nationally. As the Executive Director of the Association on American Indian Affairs, William Byler, testified, the “[r]emoval of Indian children is so often the most casual kind of operation….” During the 1974 hearings, witness after witness would testify to the automatic removal of Indian children, often without due process. Byler testified that at the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, state social workers believed that the reservation was, by definition, an unacceptable environment for children and would remove Indian children without providing services or even the barest investigation whatsoever. State actors made decisions to remove Indian children with “few standards and no systematic review of judgments” by impartial tribunals. A member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe in South Dakota testified that state actors had taken Indian children without even providing notice to Indian families, with state courts then placing the burden on the Indian parent to prove suitability to retain custody. The President of the National Congress of American Indians testified that a state caseworker came to an Indian woman’s house without warning or notice and took custody of an Indian child by force. Senator Abourezk, chairman of the Subcommittee on Indian Affairs, stated after hearing much of this testimony: 
"[W]elfare workers and social workers who are handling child welfare caseloads use any means available, whether legal or illegal, coercive or cajoling or whatever, to get the children away from mothers they think are not fit. In many cases they were lied to, they given documents to sign and they were deceived about the contents of the documents."
More insidiously, state officials often arrived to take Indian children away from their families without any paperwork whatsoever. And then those children often were adopted by non-Indian families far from Indian Country, literally without a scrap of paperwork to conclude the deal. 
To remedy the problem, Congress enacted the Indian Child Welfare Act, a statute designed to guarantee minimum procedural safeguards for Indian tribes and Indian families in non-tribal adjudicative forums and to clarify jurisdictional gray areas between state and tribal courts. 

Because Beyond the Green is a semi-autobiographical story, Glenn and her publisher must think it is ok to put this book--with an alcoholic mother who leaves a five month old in a car while that mother gets "drunk as a skunk"--into the world, but I think it ultimately does more harm than good. It exploits a tremendous harm that was done to Native children and their parents. And, Beyond the Green foregrounds the pain of a White child and her family over the harm that was--and is--done to Native children and their families, at the hands of White people.

I have a lot more to say about this book, and may be back to do that. The parts about alcoholism and the part where Dori asks "what's a squash" are only two parts that I find very troubling. I've ordered Glenn's previous telling of this same story. In 1998, it was published as Circle Dance. 

For now, I am pleading with you, Charlesbridge, don't release Beyond the Green. 

Sincerely,
Debbie Reese
American Indians in Children's Literature
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3.5 stars

I started out not real sure if I was going to like this book, and it took almost until the end for me to get into the story and what was going on. The book read to me like some disjointed vignettes that didn't feel completely connected seamlessly; however, about two-thirds of the way through the story connected with me more and I understood the direction the author was trying to take. The story is based on the author's youth, so it is semi-autobiographical (according to notes at the end of the book), so that helped to explain some of the early feelings I had while reading this. There are a lot of LDS/Utah references, not always explained for someone not of the LDS faith, and they do play a big part in the story at times, but I didn't think they detracted from the story for a reader who might not be LDS. I enjoyed seeing how much Britta loved Dori and wanted to keep her with her family forever but yet learning and understanding more about the Ute Indian culture she was growing up around. As an adult, I probably wanted to smack Britta more often for her actions (which could have been a part of why I struggled with the book at first), but they were entertaining scenarios, sometimes scary. The pow-wow was fun and interesting to read about, and I would have loved to have that part of the story be longer.

Overall, a good middle-grade/early teen read with a great message about family.
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This book transports readers back to the late 1970s, where Indian/Native American children whose parents were not able to care for them were simply given as foster children to white families. Even if there were viable biological grandparents or aunts and uncles for the child, the government thought that it would be better to take them off of the reservation entirely. This meant that if the parents ever became able to reclaim the child as their own, they would essentially be ripping that child from the only family that they have ever known. 

Britta's family took in Dori when she was only 5 months old and has raised her for the past 4 years. Eleven-year-old Britta has become used to having two younger sisters, and they seem to all be perfect together. Dori's birth mom was unable to take care of her because she was an alcoholic, but now she has gotten her life back together and wants to take her daughter home. Britta doesn't think that Irene is going to be a good mother to Dori because she barely knows her and she used to be an alcoholic, what's saying that she won't fall back into old habits? Britta is determined not to let Irene into her or her sisters' lives and will stop at nothing to save her baby sister. 

This story truly revolves around the theme of family. Britta has known her family to include Dori, and her mother has always treated Dori as a third daughter. Dori was never a burden and never stood out to them as being "different", yet she is the only one who has to leave her family and return to her "real mother". 

Even though Britta's family would probably not think of themselves as being prejudiced, Britta is prejudiced to some extent towards Dori's birth mother. She believes that since Dori's mom is an alcoholic, she will always be a "drunken" Native American woman. She doesn't think that she is worthy of having her angelic little sister. She has to work through this deep-set hatred she has for this new woman for taking her little sister away from her family. 

This book has excellent character development and world-building. I didn't even realize that the novel was supposed to be historical fiction until I got to certain parts of the story that dated themselves. 

I believe that this book could be useful for preteens to read, especially if they have foster sisters and brothers who always have the chance of being called back to live with their birth parents. It teaches them how to work through their initial grief and help their younger sibling through the changes that they will have to go through after completely changing houses. 

I would recommend this story to anyone looking for an inspirational children's book about foster families and dealing with change. 

I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley and this is my voluntary review.
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3.5* First off, there is not enough Native American fiction out there. I realized that after reading a synopsis for this book and was excited to read it. What I liked most about this book was the family dynamic and how they interacted with one another. There was so much love. The family has been fostering a little Native American girl, Dori since she was a baby. The mother of the child wants the girl back and it's the story of them trying to cope with losing a member of the family. The main character, Brittania or Britta is the one having the hardest time and it's through her that we see how much they love the little girl, Dori. There was a little adventure thrown in and some "bumps in the road." Halfway through I started losing interest. Even though this story is very heart felt and full of serious topics, it was hard for me to connect with the characters. Still, I feel like this story will touch many hearts. I enjoyed reading about this family and learning about Native American culture. 
Link for my review on goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2455986270
My opinions about this book: I really feel like the main character was strong minded even though she was going through so much emotion when it came to Dori. I think the fact that this is a middle grade is amazing. I think many kids will look up to her as being someone who stood up for what she believed in. Especially when it came to her loving her sisters so much, that was the best part of the book.
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This was a bit of an odd book If I'm honest. The storyline was good but not great and it was a little confusing at times. I had to re-read a few times to keep up with what was happening.
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*This is an ARC I received from NetGalley but all opinions are mine.*

Comes out October 2, 2018!

First of all, some facts, I’m not Native American, nor was I ever in foster care, and this story surrounds a Native American girl in foster care. 

Pros:
-The horrible things that happened to Native Americans were not glossed over. There weren’t any details, but the stealing of the land and the attempts to erase their culture were mentioned outright and never tried to make excuses for them.
-The importance of people being able to have their cultures, and in particular the importance of children growing up in an environment that teaches them their culture and history is a big part of the story and development of the main character (the girl in foster care’s foster sister).
-No one is viewed as lesser (along with the Native American characters this book also has two adults with some form of mental retardation and a recovering alcoholic) and if they are it is amended.
-Almost every single character learned things and developed.
-I liked how the story was told.

Cons:
-The slur ‘g*psy’ was said once.
-It was very hard for me to figure out when this story happened. It was only when I read the Goodreads summary (I was already through two-thirds of the book by then) that I understood when it happened at all. Since this is written for younger teens I would recommend some sort of mentioning of the year since it confused me for a while.
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An interesting semi-autographical book about a family who foster a Native American baby.  The family's love for the the child was evident and I learnt a lot about the Native American culture.  

Initially, I felt the book was written for young adult readers as the style was not overly sophisticated but it was enjoyable nonetheless.
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Very heartwarming story that I enjoyed reading with my daughters. It took us a little time to get through it, but I think that was just due to the setting of the story - something they weren't familiar with. But it's a great story about love and relationships that all ages should read in their lifetime!
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