One for the Murphys

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
September/October 2016

By Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Reviewed by Catherine Chung

One for the Murphys book cover

One for the Murphys, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt;
Nancy Paulsen Books: New York, 2012; $16.99

Growing up browsing through Salvation Army bins and snoozing in the basement, twelve-year-old Carley Connors is a born-and-bred Vegas girl who’s as tough as nails. Her dad is completely out of the picture, and it’s always been just her and her alcoholic mom. Carley’s mom smokes, makes her daughter eat from soup cans, and neglects sending Carley to school. This life is all Carley has ever known. But this zone of “normal” is torn apart after her mom’s heartbreaking betrayal that lands Carley in foster care.

Do you ever doubt the people you love? That’s how Carley feels. Rejected from the one lifeline she knows, she chooses to shut herself off from everybody else. Her new foster family, the Murphys, are a lively household with three boys. They’re genuinely caring, but so… different. And so begins Carley’s struggle of opening herself up to the Murphys’ outpouring of love.

The first couple chapters of One for the Murphys led me to wonder why Carley would even miss her mom. After all, she abused, neglected, and betrayed Carley. So how could she still ache for her mother?

As the story progressed, I began to understand why. Carley’s mom is her closest family member. Memories of Mom singing The Little Mermaid and creating rhymes for her entertainment evoke a cozy childhood glow in Carley.

My mom and I are very close. Sometimes I wonder if she knows me better than I know myself! She’s my number-one confidant. Whenever I have freak-out episodes or when I just need to calm down, she always knows exactly how to comfort me. Mom’s also pretty honest whenever I’ve done something that’s not quite right.

I remember when I was enraged at my mom for a couple of days. We argued. I vaguely remember it was for a minor transgression that I probably deserved to be chastised for. There was some yelling involved. Mom wanted us to calm down and think it over, but that wasn’t the case. Afterwards came days of silence, with anger and depression boiling inside me. By day three, I was still keeping up my anger act, but I recall my mother standing in the doorway, late at night, whispering, “No matter what, I’ll always love you.”

This is the same for Carley. Her toughness can’t mask the fact that she still yearns to be with her real mother, because she feels that nothing could ever compare to the warmth of a mother’s embrace. I agree that’s one of the best feelings in the world that we often overlook.

The aspect I enjoyed most about One for the Murphys was how Lynda Mullaly Hunt let you explore Carley’s story. I laughed at her hilarious one-liners, rooted for Carley and the Murphys, and wept during the touching scene in which Carley describes the truth of her mother’s actions. The writing is so real. You can practically hear Michael Eric clomping down the stairs imitating his favorite superhero, Super Poopy Man, as Carley affectionately describes her foster brother’s antics.

One for the Murphys is a thought-provoking novel that taught me not to take for granted and to always be prepared for the dramatic changes life brings. Anyone who wishes to read a tale with heart infused with humor and insight should consider One for the Murphys their next read.

One for the Murphys Catherine Chung

Catherine Chung, 12
Theodore, Alabama

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