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A Certain Strain of Peculiar    by Gigi Amateau order for
Certain Strain of Peculiar
by Gigi Amateau
Order:  USA  Can
Candlewick, 2009 (2009)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Thirteen-year-old Mary Harold has panic attacks at school - she has 'a fear of never belonging'. She is picked on mercilessly and ostracized for being different. Unable to convey to her single mother the desperation she feels, she drives overnight almost seven hundred miles to refuge with her beloved grandmother Ayma, who runs a farm in Wren, Alabama.

In Wren, Mary Harold feels she belongs. The county 'was taken from Cherokee lands in the 1800s' and most who live there have Indian blood. Mary Harold helps Ayma's Cherokee farm manager Bud Hale - 'a perennial candidate for the Lawrence County Board of Supervisors' - with chores, connects with and looks after her own cow, Sue (who fosters a baby deer), and develops serious muscles.

Mary Harold also meets Bud's two children who each developed their own strain of peculiar when their mother deserted the family. Mary Harold befriends Dixie, adjusting to her need to believe she is a horse, but is repelled by small Delta's violence towards wildlife. When Mary Harold lashes out at Delta, Ayma tells her 'You have to get your heart right, live your life, and love the people around you.'

Mary Harold is guided by visions of an Indian girl in the nearby Black Warrior Forest. She wonders, 'Am I becoming someone else entirely since I moved to Wren?' She is indeed and though it's often a painful transition, it's also a hopeful one. A Certain Strain of Peculiar is a remarkable story, about understanding others, feeling compassion, and facing up to your own fears. Don't miss this one.

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