. Athena's Books: Totally YA Tuesday....Virginia...Falls For an Angel
Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Totally YA Tuesday....Virginia...Falls For an Angel

Virginia by Susan Hughes

A suspenseful, thought-provoking and sometimes shocking novel about faith and family secrets.

I truly enjoyed reading this book for it's unique perspective on angels, love, cult violence, faith, doubt, life, death...and all this through the alternating lens of two teen girls. The summary on the book indicates the main character, Ivy, has a friend named Virginia with a huge secret that many will find hard to believe, and this secret is tied to Virginia's brother, Paul, and the beliefs and actions of his religious cult. Mixed in to all this is Gabriel, yes, the archangel, the one who visited Mary and announed the birth of Jesus to her. And then there is Joe, Virginia's other brother, the sane one, and the one Ivy likes.

I know what you are thinking. You don't feel like reading anything based on faith and the Jesus message, but this novel is nothing what you would expect. It is not a Christian novel, though it has Christian themes and deals with faith and personal convictions and mentions the names of Biblical characters you may have heard of. Afterall, the archangel Gabriel is a main character, but you've never seen him like this, and you will not believe the two missions he has in store for Virginia. Gabriel is all powerful and Godly and yet human, at least to Virginia (and to Mary during Biblical times). She can not imagine how his skin and breath would feel. She cannot fathom what she will promise for him, but she does and she falls. Not once, but twice. And the second one is described beautifully with his whispers on her neck.

Virginia's story is so intriguing and portions of it are just simpy beautiful and lyrical ,and Iwould love to hear more of her and Gabriel. But this is not Virginia's novel...it is Ivy. Ivy is so caught up in everybody else's problems and issues that she doesn't have time to truly grasp the typical high school experience or make sense of her growing feelings for Joe. The only time she really has for herself to escape everything happening around her is when she is out running and racing with her team. From her alcoholic mom, to her sister's unexpected return, and then Virginia's weird family with mysterious and questionable beliefs. Her head is swimming with the irrationality of Virginia's visit by an angel and all the bizarre events happening at the hands of Paul and the church he has built behind the backyard. Ivy could have been an innocent bystander, but she is at the center of this whole story since she is Virginia's only friend and is determined to help her and any help potenitial unknown victim of Paul's fanatical beliefs...with Joe's help.

It all culminates on the evening of her own sister's wedding...her dance with Joe, her near first kiss, the angel wings behind Virginia, the sirens, the truth at the end. Whose end and whose truth? Well, Virgina has her truth, while Paul's version of the truth is shattered, and still Joe and Ivy's truth is what the rest of the specatators saw. But their truth is also different because of what they know and have heard from Virginia. As for Ivy's truth, I think she has grown in faith...faith in that what you seem to understand the most is the most unexplicable and what you know little about or cannot understand is explainable or to some extent believable. It's a matter of perspective. What the world saw happen to Virginia was a tragedy, but to Virginia...well, only she truly knows.

Ivy realizes she is only a piece of the bigger picture and she is "moving toward something good and complete" with the final form undecided. Whatever and wherever her place is, sacrifice is inevitable. That may mean suspending your particual view points, giving up a moment you have been dreaming and waiting for, and putting yourself second in order to be a better friend and be there when the moment counts. Does Ivy get her first kiss? I hope so. And, I hope it feels heaven for her.

By the way...get it? Virginia...Virgin...pretty clever. It's like my character in the play I'm writing...Luke Fir...Lucifer. Well, it's close enough. It's that play I told you about before based on an urban legend.


I took hold of her hands, their bones tiny and birdlike, squeezed them gently. I felt like shaking them, shaking her into the panic I was feeling." Virginia, I don't understand."

Fourteen-year-old Ivy is flabbergasted when her childhood friend Virginia claims that she has been visited by an angel who has asked her to bear the child of God. As Ivy struggles to understand and help her friend, she uncovers more secrets, including an apocalyptic plot being devised by Virginia's weird brother, Paul. Ivy suspects Paul's activities must connect in some way to Virginia's claim but she's uncertain how. Soon Ivy finds herself caught up in a chain of events she has no control over.

Ch. 1 Excerpt

I had known my neighbor Virginia Donato since she and I were seven. We used to play together a lot when we were kids. But I was stunned to hear her voice. We hadn’t really talked in ages. We’d gone to different elementary schools, but we had been at the same middle school together for two years, and although we’d said hi to each other in the school hallways once in a while, she hadn’t called me in a long time, not for a few years at least.
“Fine,” Virginia replied. “I’m fine.” But she didn’t sound fine. She sounded distracted, as if I’d just interrupted her. As if she’d been in the middle of a conversation with someone else. I waited, uncertainly, slightly uneasy to be hearing from her. There was a silence. I felt a drop of sweat starting to trickle down my back. Still Virginia didn’t speak.
“Virginia? So, what’s up?” I asked lightly.
“Um, Ivy, I wonder if you could come over and talk to me.” Her voice sounded odd, thin and breathy. I didn’t remember it being that way. “It’s important,” she added. I hesitated. This was even more strange, that she’d choose to talk to me about something important. We’d been … well, friends, I guess … but never really the best of friends. But I felt I owed her that much, and anyway, I was sort of curious about what had become of her. I hardly ever saw her on the street anymore. Her older brothers and sisters seemed to drive her everywhere she had to go. She kept to herself at school. And she seemed to have few friends, fewer
even than me, maybe none.
“Well, okay. When?”
“Could you come now?”
“Yes, now would be good,” she said.
It was weird. Hearing her ask for something so directly, it struck me that Virginia had never asked me for anything before. When Virginia and I used to play together, she
had always wanted to do whatever I wanted. She had sort of flitted around the edges of my ideas, my little bits of organizing, my imagination. It wasn’t like her to be
demanding. This must be pretty serious after all.
“Okay,” I agreed. “I’ll come over in a few minutes, Gin.”
“Thanks,” she said.
And so it began. (Ivy's point of view)
“What are you doing here?” she asked. She knew she should be afraid, and she was, a little. He was a stranger, after all. A stranger here, in her own bedroom. Part of her knew she should scream and run, that she should call for help. She was alone, and he had come in somehow.
He was here, in her bedroom. (Virginia's point of view)

Favorite Lines:

What was she talking about? "Paul says Jesus will be here soon"? That didn't seem so bad. Unbelievable, but not bad.

He was leaving, and she didn't know how she would breathe, how her heart would continue to beat, how heer bones would support her, for she had fallen.

She shivered. It had not been simple or pure or dull. It was extraordinary. No one realized. No one knew how it had been. No one could imagine
The air felt delicious aginst my bare skin, like the brush of thousands of feather tips.

I was hardly breathing, stunned. Joe was panting, sitting behind me, his one arm still tight around my waist, gathering me in, still saving me.

I saw it, high above us, a black figure with wide wings against the star-lit sky, poised for a moment, like sorrow itself.