Book Review: Into The Free

22 May

404242Just a girl. The only one strong enough to break the cycle.

In Depression-era Mississippi, Millie Reynolds longs to escape the madness that marks her world. With an abusive father and a “nothing mama,” she struggles to find a place where she really belongs.

For answers, Millie turns to the Gypsies who caravan through town each spring. The travelers lead Millie to a key that unlocks generations of shocking family secrets. When tragedy strikes, the mysterious contents of the box give Millie the tools she needs to break her family’s longstanding cycle of madness and abuse.

Through it all, Millie experiences the thrill of first love while fighting to trust the God she believes has abandoned her. With the power of forgiveness, can Millie finally make her way into the free?



julie-7-2_06_03_2013Julie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Into the Free, which won Christy Awards for Best Debut Novel and for Book of the Year 2013. Cantrell has served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and is a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship. She and her family live in Mississippi, where they operate Valley House Farm. Her new novel, When Mountains Move, hit shelves September 1, 2013.


My Impressions:

Julie Cantrell won 2 Christy Awards for her debut novel, Into The Free. It is easy to see why. Her novel is a moving study of a young girl with so many obstacles to overcome, so many people set against her, yet somehow she manages to hold on to the elusive hope that she can escape and somehow make it into freedom. Not a particularly easy read considering the abuse some of the characters undergo, it is nevertheless a book I would highly recommend to anyone.

Spanning the years of 1936-1943, Into The Free features Millie Reynolds the daughter of a rodeo star who also regularly beats his wife. Mama retreats from the abuse and despair of her life by taking the drugs that the farmhands bring. Millie has learned to disappear, to be quiet and not cause any trouble. Yet she yearns for an escape and watches and waits for the Travelers that appear in the Spring.

Cantrell has a wonderful writing style, creating memorable and well-developed characters and using effective imagery. Millie is a survivor and a character that endures hard situations and hard people while maintaining her sense of self. Cantrell balances the abusive with the redemptive in the characters she creates. And there is a tension between Millie’s desire for the magical freedom that the gypsy boy River represents with the steady, dependable faith of cowboy Bump. The small town of Iti Taloa, Mississippi becomes very real in Cantrell’s hands. Small town gossip and prejudices are present, but so are caring people who seek to shelter Millie. But in 1940s Mississippi there is a limit to what one can do to step into a family’s business.

I read a few negative reviews of Into The Free. Some thought it was too Christian, others not Christian enough. Cantrell is blunt in her portrayal of hypocritical church members. At their best they are unfeeling gossips. At their worst they are abusive and manipulative. But theirs is a Christianity that is in name only. Her portrayal of real faith is beautiful. When Millie visits Bump’s family in the Delta she finds she “can taste the existence of God in every bite of food, smell Him in every whiff of Delta air, feel Him as Bump brushes against my arm and children tug at my dress with question after question about the rodeo, about Bump”. The provision and protection of God takes the shape of Sloth, a character from Millie’s childhood, who shows up to guide and direct her and sometimes to save her.

Into The Free has been in my TBR pile a long while. I am glad I finally took the time to read it. Powerful, beautiful, poignant, it is definitely Highly Recommended.

Highly Recommended.

Great For Book Clubs.

(I purchased this book for my Kindle. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase Into The Free, click on the image below.

4 Responses to “Book Review: Into The Free”

  1. Virginia May 22, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    I loved reading this book! 🙂

    • rbclibrary May 22, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

      It was definitely a good one! Thanks for stopping by.


  1. Top 10 Tuesday — Best Books Read This Year | BY THE BOOK - June 10, 2014

    […] Into The Free by Julie […]

  2. Book Review: When Mountains Move | BY THE BOOK - July 13, 2014

    […] Novel and Book of The Year. I loved it and highly recommend it to anyone. (You can read my review HERE.) However, this novel, which takes place immediately following the end of Into The Free, never […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: