A Tree Grows In Atlantic City – Not


Meghan K. Barnes autobiographic account of her youth in the casino dominated environment of Atlantic City, New Jersey is more interesting than one might expect. 

Take a young girl living with her family in Atlantic City.  Add in encounters and relationships with her peers, her family members and the culture, generally, and what you have is For The Love of God memoir of growing up in difficult times, facing adversity, temptation, injustice, potential poverty, and a variety of other challenges and you might not expect much of a book.  Yet, Meghan Barnes has created a fascinating read out of what might otherwise appear to be ordinary events not worthy of recounting, or things best ignored or forgotten. 


Memoirs are often a reflection of what matters in the author’s life; rites of passage, important memories, relationships importance and events that shaped future events or consequences.  Yet this isn’t exactly what we get upon opening For The Love of God.  In fact, the vignettes the author shares with us we might expect to be unimportant until we see how she illustrates them and come to learn exactly why they actually were important, or the origin of memories that persist. 


This is not “A Tree Grows In Atlantic City.  It is not a story of a happy youth sprinkled with anecdotes about how life turns out well if you are patient and persevere.  It is more of a struggle with adversity and circumstances and situations that should not have occurred, or which turned out differently than one might expect.  That good intentions and hard work don’t always result in the best endings, but at the same time we realize that such endings aren’t the end of the world.  They are part of life and are there to be learned from.  Perhaps it is the learning and the facing adversity that is the most important. 


What fascinated this reviewer the most was how easily the book became a page-turner, despite my expectations that it wouldn’t.  Thus we see how her father’s job search, a vacation trip to the Caribbean, or building structures out of pasta for a school science class impacted the author’s life; a life that culminates, for our purposes, in her relationship with her Godmother, the Godmother’s fight against cancer and the author’s eventual escape from Atlantic City, which was the Godmother’s dream for her. 


The stories are intensely personal, portrayed with superb use of language, and the final chapter, which deals, in part, with the author‘s religious growth and identification is of particular interest.  In a time where religious faith is receding in popular interest it leads one to wonder exactly how some of the seemingly coincidental events occurred.  A picture emerges that faith, which doesn’t play a central role in the story is more important than it seems and leads one to explore the role of faith in adversity.  All in all, the book is filled with important lessons from life that we can look back on, or use as instruction, for those who haven’t encountered them yet. 


All things considered, Meghan Barnes has constructed a work of value which probably will not receive the recognition that it deserves because it lies outside the plane of popular subject matter; a fact that makes it much more valuable reading. 

Ms. Barnes, who holds an MFA in Creative Writing is widely published in a variety of forums.  For the Love of God is available from Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle editions. 

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