It's our parents watching over us: Book Review of Angels Watching over Me | Teen Ink

It's our parents watching over us: Book Review of Angels Watching over Me

June 12, 2022
By Shiki_Shi BRONZE, Pelham, Alabama
Shiki_Shi BRONZE, Pelham, Alabama
4 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
I shall be an intellectual who bears a why for any how.

Angels Watching Over Me is a novella written by McDaniel Lurlene. McDaniel cleverly puts Amish family values and the growing challenges single-parent families encounter front and center for readers with an unexpected but unique answer to current children's problematic relationships with their parents. Leah, the protagonist of the story, is rebellious but independent. Her single-parent family and early education experience shape her independent, assertive, and argumentative character. Reasonably, Leah's atypical contemporary personality barely makes readers correlate her with the practices of Amish people who live conventionally and separately from the bustling society and isolate themselves from modern-day technologies. 

Nevertheless, the shared bond that adjoins the two elements —contemporary American high school students and antiquated religious values — is the factor of family. Family, regardless of a single-parent family, grandparent family, or single-sex family, plays the most significant role in an individual's physical and psychological development at an early age. According to world-reputed developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, people's personalities are predominantly affected by their environment, and their personalities largely determine their relationship with society, whether amiable, talkative, or unfriendly. Growing up in an Amish community, Ethan, on the flip side of Leah, is family-centered, unassuming, and, to some extent, clumsy due to his docile character. The author employs Ethan as a foil character to Leah to show how disparate environments are capable of changing one's character traits.

Furthermore, McDaniel connects these two unparalleled dots when Leah progressively broods romantic sentiment for Ethan. Leah and Ethan's distinction of family coincidentally attracts them to each other, resulting in their living environment. To elaborate, Leah grows up in a family where only a strong woman (her mom) takes care of her. Her mom lacks female tenderness in her education of Leah as a trade-off for her outstanding capability and self-assured personality. As a result, Leah naturally becomes a vocal and confident girl, whereas she lacks maternal tenderness, leading to her longing for caring companionship. Crossing all of Leah's checkboxes for company, Ethan also has a decent appearance, making him a perfect candidate for Leah. Moreover, Ethan comes from a caring and loving family; thus, he possesses the ability to be considerate and caring. 

McDaniel's answer for problematic child-parent relationships is simple bilateral love and understanding. The vacancy of a father in Leah's family causes Leah's mom to work both as mom and dad. Although Leah's mom does her best in an attempt to care for Leah, she fails to offer Leah parental affection, overlooking Leah's psychological needs and her fragile personality behind her independent character. Therefore, the only solution to make up for Leah's past disregard is to understand what Leah needs the most and offer her more company. At the end of the story, when Leah is diagnosed with bone cancer, the fact eventually pushes Leah's mom to have a closer examination of her daughter. It makes her realize her daughter's fragility. Leah's mom's new husband also kindly supports his wife in dedicating herself to her daughter. It is not hard to foresee the resolution to the long-standing tension between Leah and her mom. It is more promising that Leah will be mature and mentally complete. 

Lastly, McDaniel's usage of religion is explicit. For example, the name of a nurse in the hospital where Leah stays is Gabrielle, boldly referring to the angel of Gabriel in the Bible. Besides, the frequent appearance of Amish people throughout the story serves as another religious symbol in the group's connection to Christianity. Overall, I am partially critical of McDaniel's selection of spiritual elements. She thoughtfully uses religion to exhibit people's goodness and kindness, but she doesn't tell the readers why these Christian elements are enigmatic that naturally embody goodness and kindness. Religion in her story appears to be overly idealized, which is the embodiment of love and pristineness. She unexplainably places her definition of religion into the reader's hands, which is somehow incomplete as far as I am concerned. 

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