CO native writes, discusses life with addict
In Karin Mitchell’s debut novel, “Between Families,” she creates the story of Seffra Morgan, a 12-year-old dealing with a drug addicted mother.
Mitchell sets the book in the 1990s in St. Louis and details the struggle of Seffra’s life taking care of herself and her mother. Seffra knows that her mother is not perfect, but trips to Chicago show Seffra a glimpse of what her life could be like with a sober mother.
Seffra struggles to keep herself fed, while being harassed and bullied at school during a vulnerable time in her life.
When she begins to be sexually abused by a male friend of her mother’s, Seffra decides to attempt to take her own life. Readers should be warned about the graphic nature of the abuse that Seffra endures.
After some teenagers find Seffra clinging to life, she is sent to the hospital then to Castlerock, a residential treatment center. She learns that there are many children out there with problems similar to hers and she struggles to adapt to a life supervised by psychiatrists and institution workers.
Just as Seffra and her now-sober mother are making progress toward being a family again, tragedy strikes and Seffra decides that the only way out of the institution is for her to be placed in foster care. She improves her behavior at this institution and decides to change her life for herself. She finally takes charge of her own life. This book leaves the reader wondering what exactly will become of 12-year-old Seffra Morgan.
A page turner, this book calls attention to the idea of institutionalizing children, the shame that follows sexual abuse, personal identity, and the struggles that surround the addicted and their families. This novel begins with a bang and keeps the reader involved in Seffra’s story of overcoming all the obstacles thrown at her.
Mitchell is a native of the Midwest and now resides in Colorado. She teaches writing at Colorado Mountain College, Glenwood Springs, and writes and skis in the mountains. She spent some time working in social services which led the inspiration for this book.