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One for the Murphys  is a coming-of-age novel written by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, bestselling author of Fish In A Tree, a book which received a very favorable review on the Stone Soup blog. One for the Murphys centers around Carley Connors, who moves to Connecticut to live with her foster family after her mother ends up in the hospital. The foster family, which consists of Mr. Murphy, his wife Julie, and their children Michael Eric, Adam, and Daniel, live a very different life than Carley imagined or has ever lived before. As she tries to adjust to her new life, her thoughts on friendships, family, and mother-daughter relationships shift drastically.

Carley, her friend Toni, her mom, and her foster family are all very well-developed characters who have complicated and nuanced relationships--one of the novel’s selling points. Carley loves Toni, but they are very different people who end up learning a lot about different family dynamics, books, and Broadway musicals. Carley also loves her mother, although their relationship is far from perfect. Carley often had to fend for herself when she lived with her mother, but she still has many fond memories of her. Meanwhile, she finds herself at once being very fond of the Murphys while feeling undeserving of the affection and attention they shower on her. The characters trying to figure out their places in society and in one another’s hearts are part of what makes the book such a captivating read.

Unlike many coming-of-age stories, One for the Murphys does not have a picture-perfect happy ending. Carley has learned a lot, and is a more mature adult ready for the next chapter of her life, but as the reader closes the book, they know that Carley’s happiness was short lived, that she is heading towards a challenge which will leave her longing for the comfort she experienced and wondering what will happen to her when she grows up. The novel shows us that Carley finally has a passion, but that it is not one she is likely to achieve. She knows what it means to be a family, but only just in time to realize she has to leave one forever. She makes friends and establishes her roots only for them to be torn up again. But through all this is a little kernel of hope: that Carley will learn to make do with what she has, get her dream job, see the family she had to leave behind, and move to the place where her life first changed for the better.

One for the Murphys is a wonderfully heartwarming story about friends, family, and what being a teenager is all about. The book made me laugh, cry, and root for Carley; with any luck, it will sit on your bookshelf, like it did on mine, getting reread and passed on to those I love the most.

One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2013. Buy the book here and help support Stone Soup in the process!

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