Sometimes children ask questions that aren’t so easy to answer. When it comes to the harder topics of discussion — for example, what happens after people die — it can be tempting to try to shield them from these difficult conversations. But children need to learn how to handle complex emotions like grief, and Robert M. Moores’ debut novel The Shoe Box (Palmetto Publishing) gives them the tools to understand what they’re feeling.
The Shoe Box tells the story of Violet Cooper, an eight-year-old who’s struggling with the death of her father. On Violet’s fourth birthday, her father was in a fatal car crash. Ever since, she has harbored guilt over the event, and has tried to seek comfort by staying in the denial stage of grief. She thinks that if she just tries hard enough, she can go back in time and save her father.
When she discovers a shoebox filled with old photos in her attic, Violet thinks this must be the key. In a moment of magical realism, she’s able to step through the picture into her late father’s life. But the picture doesn’t take her to the day of her father’s death — instead, it takes her to the scenes of his childhood, where she gets the opportunity to befriend the boy who would later become her father.
TURNING TO FAITH IN TIMES OF NEED
As a self-described Christian author, Moores draws inspiration from Scripture, such as Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Violet is definitely feeling brokenhearted and crushed, but even as people reach out to her, she struggles to accept their help.
In her eyes, it seems like they’re uncomfortable with her grieving, and are impatient to speed up her mourning process. Violet is also bothered by the many people around her who are telling her to turn to God during this time. It isn’t until she seeks out religion on her own terms that Violet is able to tackle these hard conversations.
Eventually, however, the advice that Violet’s received begins to sink in. As she comes to terms with her father’s death and begins to heal, the reader can see how she’s able to grow and find happiness after the loss of her father.
FORGIVENESS AND MOVING FORWARD
Moores doesn’t sugarcoat Violet’s struggles as she tries to heal. We see Violet lose her temper as she wrestles with the big questions in her life. But readers can also look past Violet’s anger to see a story of forgiveness and healing. Though Violet lashes out at the people who comprise her support system, they are still there for her when she is ready to accept their help.
Ultimately The Shoe Box isn’t just a story about grief. It’s also about the power of community and unconditional love. From her mother to her teacher, and even her friend’s pastor father, Violet finds herself surrounded by people who are eager to help her heal, if she will let them.
Through the magic of the shoebox in the attic, Violet is able to get the closure she’s been searching for over the past four years. The Shoe Box provides us all with reassurance that happiness is always achievable — if you just take a leap of faith.
The Shoe Box by Robert M. Moores is available now.
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