5 STAR REVIEW
Julia Santi’s carefully constructed life in New York City is torpedoed when her ten-year-old niece, Rumi, comes to live with her. Rumi is from rural Mississippi and her only living parent, her father, is missing.
No more fashion boutique on Madison Avenue for Julia. No more carefree evenings with friends, or dates that might culminate in happily ever after. Instead, she trades that life to become a stay-at-home pseudo-parent to a child she has met only once before.
Rumi’s entry into city life is a dismal failure when she is kicked out of an elite private school on her first day there. Julia is horrified that the Santi name is sullied. Rumi does not see what the fuss is about.
Because Rumi always sees the glass as half full.
Even when her father is accused of human trafficking. Even when he is presumed to be either dead or hiding from the law. Even when the aunt who was supposed to love and protect her blames her for ruining her life.
Then again, Rumi knows something nobody else does.
There is a plan. Her father is coming for her.
And they will be together soon.
In "The Flying Papers," by Ginna Leatherbury, Rumi is an insightful 10-year-old girl. As in many families with two parents and one child, Rumi has walked the line of being a child and hanging out with adults all her life.
Rumi’s parents named her after Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, known better simply as Rumi — the 13th century Persian poet, theologian, and scholar. Ten-year-old Rumi likes to see the poet Rumi’s verses that her mother prints on paper in neat calligraphy. (Is it a coincidence the mother’s name is Callie?) Rumi then draws pictures to accompany her mother’s fancy printing. She and her parents discuss the creations, which then get stashed for safe keeping. To distinguish the poet from the child, they assigned the poet the nickname “RP,” not as a sign of disrespect, but as a sign of deep affinity.
Her idyllic life in Mississippi is abruptly changed when her mother dies. Rumi and her father, Billy, make the best of things, leaning on each other for support and company. Billy makes trips on what Rumi calls “Daddy’s Air Tractor,” but it’s not clear what he does for a living. One day, Billy doesn’t come home. When the authorities learn that such a young child has been alone for several days, they step in and do the “right” thing: they send her off to live with her aunt in New York City.
From there, the book takes us in and out through the ups and downs as Aunt Julia and Rumi try to develop a relationship. Aunt Julia is a little stuck on herself. At times, Rumi sounds more like the adult in the relationship. Meanwhile, Julia is doing her best to bring Rumi up according to her values, but Rumi is making Julia question the validity of these values one by one.
Rumi likes to question everything about life, as evidenced in these two conversations about cocoons. First, she is talking to the building doorman, who seems to be the only one who really listens to the young girl. The second is her aunt’s assessment of the same topic:
George smiled. “Exactly. The thing is, there’s a lot that takes place in that transition that we do not see. No one actually knows what takes place inside that cocoon except the caterpillar.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Rumi. We know exactly what happens in the cocoon. Didn’t your mother teach you any science when she home-schooled you? It’s called metamorphosis.”
Leatherbury struggles a little with similar words — homonyms, homophones, and tenses — like lay/lie, laid/lay, dingy/dinghy, turnup/turnip, etc. The errors aren’t atrocious and make the author seem more human because the rest of her writing is heavenly.
The depth of Leatherbury’s writing is something to be relished. Many times, I found myself rereading passages so that I could enjoy their many layers.
Leatherbury’s writing beautifully captures the quirky observations that pop out of kids’ mouths. For example, here’s an interaction between Rumi and a nun when Rumi is touring the Catholic school her aunt wants her to attend (as she and Rumi’s mother did):
“They’re all dressed the same,” Rumi said. “That’s the school uniform,” Sister said. How odd, Rumi thought. Nuns wearing regular clothes so they fit in with the real world, and children wearing clothes that set them apart.
An undercurrent of religion and faith flows through Leatherbury’s writing, but not in a torrential way. It’s more like the gentle river at home in Liberty that Rumi swims in: “Her feet lazily swishing back and forth as though they were a fin. And finally her head, penetrating that fine line between river and sky, and the welcome breath of air to soothe her lacking lungs.”
Some of Leatherbury’s most beautiful writing is in passages that would give away too much of the story. You’ll have to read it for yourself! The ending is a shock and could be sad, but it’s not. All in all, this is quite a feel-good read.
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About The Author
Ginna Leatherbury started her undergraduate studies at Bucknell University. After taking a brief leave of absence, Leatherbury transferred to Marymount University where she graduated Valedictorian of her class. Leatherbury continued her education and received her Juris Doctorate from Georgetown University Law Center.
Leatherbury worked as a corporate attorney while pursuing other interests, leading her to become a nationally ranked Ironman triathlete. Leatherbury then changed course and spent her time volunteering for local charities.
Leatherbury began her writing career a little over a decade ago and has two published thrillers, Vengeance Squared and Always the Blood. Always the Blood won fourth place in the 2018 Key West Mystery Fest Writers Competition. Leatherbury’s third thriller, Sparky, is scheduled to be released this fall. She has also authored an inspirational family saga, The Flying Papers, set to release in early 2023.
Leatherbury lives with her husband and toy poodle, Jazz, and divides her time between the Florida Keys and Montana.