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Being Fishkill


Being Fishkill

Fishkill Carmel does what she needs to do to survive, whether it would beating up the school bully on the playground or attempting to steal lunch from Duck-Duck Farina, a strange but intriguing girl. After Fishkill’s failed theft on Duck-Duck, they form an unusual friendship, and Fishkill is given a chance at a new beginning. As she grows closer to Duck-Duck and Duck-Duck’s mother, Molly, they begin to form the family that Fishkill never knew she needed. Their fragile new family is soon threatened by the reappearance of Fishkill’s mother and, as a result, an unimaginable tragedy occurs. Through compelling writing and unforgettable characters, first-time author Ruth Lehrer creates a world that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

Going into BEING FISHKILL, I did not know a lot about the novel. All I knew was it had a fantastic title and absolutely stellar reviews. For me, that is all I needed to know. Looking back, I am glad I did not know much about the plot and characters in advance. Reading this book with a clean slate and letting the characters fill in the blanks for me was an amazing experience that I would not have changed.

"Through compelling writing and unforgettable characters, first-time author Ruth Lehrer creates a world that will stay with you long after you turn the last page."

The characters were what made this story so great for me. Yes, the plot was paced perfectly, the writing was spot-on, and the ending hit me like a punch in the gut, but the characters are the real stars. First off: Fishkill Carmel. Now, Fishkill Carmel has to be one of the best-named characters in any novel in recent memory. Every time I read her name, it reminded me how tough, resourceful and intelligent Fishkill was, spending a whole summer alone in the woods, living off of couch-cushion-coin bought Yodels. She does this all without shedding a single tear, I believe, until the end, of course…but no spoilers!

On to Duck-Duck: while I loved Duck-Duck’s character, she did not feel as real to me as the other characters. That may have been the point, though: she was the blazing comet soaring above everyone else and teaching everyone to be a little more thoughtful and mischievous. While not seeming as real, I did very much enjoy reading about all of her conspiracy theories and crime-solving ideas.

Lastly, Molly. To me, Molly was the best character. Being intelligent, tough and selfless, she was one of the most caring and endearing characters I have ever read. But when she broke, she broke, and did not hold back. People can be tough as nails, but when faced with the unbearable, no one can be blamed for falling apart. Molly and Fishkill were able to connect with each other in ways Duck-Duck and Molly never could. Fishkill was always on the outside because of her upbringing, and Molly, being a lesbian single mother, could surely understand this better than anyone. Duck-Duck, who was the perfect soccer-playing daughter, had never experienced this sort of struggle.

The relationship that blooms between Fishkill and Molly was beautiful and their conversations, mostly at the end, made me cry big ugly tears. They had each other when they needed each other the most, and I believe there is nothing more poetic than that, especially since they had a stronger mother-daughter bond than Fishkill ever did with her mother. Speaking of Fishkill’s mother, I hate to say it, but I felt a little bad for her near the end. When she suggested that she might have been sexually abused by her father, Fishkill’s grandfather, my heart broke. This does not excuse how either of them treated Fishkill, but it gave some more humanity to an exceedingly insensitive and reckless woman.

Overall, I absolutely loved this novel. The achingly beautiful and heartbreaking story pulled me in without even trying. It was almost impossible not to be in enthralled in this book. Most importantly, it offered me a new perspective on a lot of things that I was taking for granted. I now look at my full fridge and pantry with more gratitude, appreciate my warm and Christmas tree-lit house much more, and hug my mom and dad a little bit tighter. You will never get enough time with the people that you love the most, and Fishkill Carmel taught me that. For her and this book, I am grateful.

Highly recommended for fans of LUCKY STRIKES by Louis Bayard.

Reviewed by Bryn D., Teen Board Member on November 30, 2017

Being Fishkill
by Ruth Lehrer