Shit That We Should Never Pass Along And All That We Cannot Leave Behind by M.J. Boin De
There are stories meant to transport us out of reality and somewhere better, giving us a small reprieve from the harsh truths of our world. And then there are stories that reflect those harsh truths and amplify the messiness of reality. M.J. Boin De’s debut novel, Shit That We Should Never Pass Along, and All That We Cannot Leave Behind, is an exemplary model of the latter.
The story follows 15-year-old Mara along with her wildly dysfunctional family, often swapping perspectives between Mara and her mother, Gina. This wild mother-daughter duo seem to constantly be at odds with each other, partially because of Gina’s absence due to her working three jobs and Mara being left to care for her younger sisters.
And yet, despite their screaming, fighting and snarky comments — and monthly noise complaints — this is a family that deeply loves each other. While Mara and her mother’s relationship may be taut with many issues, they grow to slowly understand each other by the end of the story.
Long & Difficult Road to Healing From Trauma
In the late 1980s, Mara and her family move to rural Kansas to escape her stepfather — the biological father of her two younger sisters, and the man who abused Mara both physically and sexually for most of her life. Mara’s accusations cause a small rift in her family due to her mother’s denial. Unable to confide in her family, Mara is left to heal on her own.
Mara continues to withdraw further into herself, refusing to really let others in. This often leads her into troublesome situations — with her sisters, her boyfriend and her community at large. Feeling guilty for her perceived failings as a mother, Gina often lets Mara off the hook easy, and Mara only continues her downward spiral.
With the help of her younger sisters, a mischievous cousin, and her boyfriend, Mara mostly lives to taunt the three old women who live nearby and spill their family business to everyone at church. But when one particular prank goes wrong, Mara is left with an unpleasant feeling of guilt in her stomach. When she goes to make amends, she ends up making a connection with the most unlikely of people.
Complicated Characters, Messy Life, Touching Story
Part of what makes this story so engaging is the nitty-gritty details of the family, revealing their darkest moments — and making them feel that much more real in the process. Mara and Gina (as well as Mara’s youngest sister, Teeney) are, to be blunt, complete assholes, both to each other and to most others. Their language and attitudes are foul.
But there are so many complicated layers to dig through to really see the people underneath. Mara is an avid advocate for social justice, and Gina is an independent woman ahead of her time who just wants to hold her family together. These characters are far from perfect — and that’s what makes them perfect characters.
Life is complicated and dirty and messy, and often things aren’t simply black and white — and Shit That We Should Never Pass Along perfectly encapsulates that. This book is touching and heartwarming in the most unexpected of ways, and readers might find themselves dabbing away a tear or two.
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M.J. Boin De was born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas. She is a mother before she is anything else. She has a dual B.S. from Kansas State University in Criminology and Sociology. She also holds a Masters Degree in Special Education from Grand Canyon University. Her first published book, Shit That We Should Never Pass Along, And All That We Cannot Leave Behind, is a fictional memoir, with the trauma based in her own real-life experiences. As a writer Boin De hopes to continue publishing books that uniquely speak in, to, and through to as many universal experiences that every generation currently living finds relative, meaningful, and evaluative in nature. Her debut book is the only memoir Boin De will publish. But she has no intention of stopping herself from finding ways to address both personal and societal expectations no matter where her next characters find themselves in space and time. Boin De has a strong preference for wiring in mature and controversial themes.