a review by Nalini Haynes
Margot is dead. Long live Margot in her new life as a guardian angel to herself. To avoid confusion, Margot takes the name Ruth in her incarnation as a guardian angel. After Margot’s death Ruth is taken back to Margot’s birth to watch over and love Margot. Margot was born to a junkie who died in childbirth and a teenage drunk who was separated from her after birth because he was taken in for questioning by police after the death. From that time on, Margot had a number of foster homes and spent 8 years in an institution of the kind we hear about on the news when survivors are fighting for apologies from churches. There is some love and a lot of abuse in Margot’s formative years, which results in a very messed up individual who is on a path to self-destruction.
Ruth tries to change things with very mixed success. The story is told from Ruth’s perspective, as Ruth herself is growing as a character. During Margot’s childhood, Ruth finds it easy to love herself but she finds it difficult to love Margot during her teenage and adult years. Ruth feels ambivalent about Toby, Margot’s husband and soul mate. While enjoying the opportunity to love her son Theo again, Ruth is frustrated by her inability to change the future which is also her past. Attempts to change things come at a price.
The Guardian Angel’s Journal is not a paranormal romance. This book is, in my experience, unusual in that it explores significant issues in a paranormal fictional setting. (Is Carolyn Jess-Cooke a female Joss Whedon?) Margot survived childhood abuse, but the effects of the abuse are realistically carried into adulthood. The ripple effect of the abuse on Margot impacts on those around her. In Journal, Margot is given a second chance as Ruth, not so much to change things but to see the full picture of what happened in order to come to terms with her past and learn to love herself. The characters and their struggles feel so real, this book could be based on a true story (apart from the whole angel thing of course). Told with compassion and understanding, Journal is well paced with unexpected twists.
This is a gritty, gutsy story about a real issue, surviving childhood abuse, so it is not for the faint hearted. Although heartbreaking in its realism, Journal reframes Margot’s and Ruth’s experiences in an encouraging light that may be helpful for survivors of abuse and their loved ones. Survivors should ensure they have appropriate support including someone to talk to if they read The Guardian Angel’s Journal.
The Guardian Angel’s Journal will be a classic for its genre, reaching far beyond the typical market for paranormal fiction, so it’s a must read in my opinion. However, for those who want more information, read The Guardian Angel’s Journal if you enjoyed Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes, Broken by Ilsa Evans or if you like Joss Whedon’s exploration of real life issues in his paranormal fiction such as the award winning episode of Buffy where Buffy’s mum died.
This article was previously published in Dark Matter issue 3, April 2011, and predated on this website to reflect the original publication date.