*Sara Hosey. Iphigenia Murphy.
Read by Tavia Gilbert.
7 CDs. 8.5 hrs.
Blackstone Audio. 2020. Ages 12-17.
Iphigenia Murphy deals with a social problem that is far too common, but one which many readers/listeners may never have personally encountered and may probably never encounter in their own lives. As more people share their stories, however, the widespread nature of the problem emerges – the problem of abuse – the physical and emotional abuse of children, women, and men. Abuse is not restricted to specific social class, economic status, gender, or age.
Iphigenia ("Iffy") Murphy, 15 years old, runs away from the house shared with her father, stepmother and stepbrother, Marcos. After her own mother, consumed by alcohol and drug dependency, suffered a mental breakdown of sorts years ago, abandoned Iphigenia and her family. Unsupervised, Marcos now sexually abuses Iffy repeatedly, until she runs away in desperation, preferring to live a homeless existence in 1992 Queens Forest Park, NY. Savvy Iffy had earned and saved her money to buy necessary supplies – tent, sleeping bag, cooking utensils, and food. She manages to survive, defending herself from vagrants, thieves, and other homeless victims one would normally cross to the other side of the street to avoid. She adopts a stray dog, whom she names "Angel" and meets Corinne, a young trans woman, older than she, who is trying to cope with an abusive relationship. The two live together in the park, forming an unusual friendship which encourages them to share their thoughts, hopes, and fears. Things become more complicated and dangerous when Iphigenia tries to locate her crackhead mother, also reputed to be living in the park, and to get even with her stepbrother by reporting his drug business to the cops. When Anthony shows up – a foster kid whose parents have been in and out of prison for dealing drugs – he and Iffy discover a mutual attraction. Anthony becomes her source of normality and strength, a protector of sorts. All are searching for real family and acceptance. For Iffy, living in the park has opened her eyes to her own worth and value, making this a moving coming-of-age story. Narrator Tavia Gilbert deftly personalizes each character – Iphigenia's sometimes wavering voice often makes her sound like the child she is, but one who carries a knife and gun for protection. Corinne sounds battle-worn, but unable to leave the man she loves, but who has repeatedly abused her. Anthony's caring, concern provides a calm, compassionate, reassuring voice. The park people reflect their coarse, sneaky, and threatening behaviors.
Sara Hobey's excellent audiobook paints a grimly realistic picture of those forced to live on the streets with little hope of an alternate future. It may open the eyes of many teens who fantasize about experiencing freedom, without parental constraint.
Reviewed by Susan Allison