One for the Murphys

( 84 )

Overview

A moving debut novel about a foster child learning to open her heart to a family's love

Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child, and moves in with the Murphys, she's blindsided. This loving, bustling family shows Carley the stable family life she never thought existed, and she feels like an alien in their cookie-cutter-perfect household. Despite her resistance, the Murphys eventually show her what it ...

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One for the Murphys

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Overview

A moving debut novel about a foster child learning to open her heart to a family's love

Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child, and moves in with the Murphys, she's blindsided. This loving, bustling family shows Carley the stable family life she never thought existed, and she feels like an alien in their cookie-cutter-perfect household. Despite her resistance, the Murphys eventually show her what it feels like to belong—until her mother wants her back and Carley has to decide where and how to live. She's not really a Murphy, but the gifts they've given her have opened up a new future.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When 12-year-old Carley Conners is put into foster care, she is angry and distrustful of the picture-perfect Murphy family. Carley’s mother is in the hospital after a savage beating by Carley’s stepfather, and while Carley has forgotten some details of that night, she partly blames herself for what happened. Mrs. Murphy works hard to gain Carley’s trust, and Carley comes to love her foster mother deeply. Life with the Murphys contrasts with Carley’s old life of poverty with a mother who often dismantled her confidence. At times melodramatic and perhaps overly emotionally manipulative, Hunt’s debut novel is nothing if not a tearjerker—scenes at home with the Murphy family, as well as those in which Carley builds a tentative friendship at school, are undeniably affecting. Hunt’s writing is strong and her characters well-developed and believable; if Carley’s narration and frequent quips sometimes read as too polished, readers will still be drawn into this story of a girl’s struggle against the ingrained belief that she is undeserving of kindness and generosity. Ages 10–up. Agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (May)
Booklist
"Hunt's heart-wrenching debut believably captures Carley's painful one-step-forward, two-steps-back process, particularly as she acts out in order to protect dealing with her emotions. . . . Carley promises Mrs. Murphy that she'll 'have a happy life someday,' and readers will be cheering her on."
The Horn Book
"Carley's struggles with anger, regret, and self-worth both balance and deepen this coming-of-age tale. . . . Speaks to the universal experience of growing up but will especially resonate with readers who have questioned the hands they have been dealt and wonder how to move forward nonetheless. . . . Vacillates between uplifting and heartbreaking as Carley learns to love, be loved, and let go."
Voice of Youth Advocates
"This debut novel holds its own. . . . Affectingly told. Believing that she can, someday, have a loving family of her own . . . makes a different kind of happy ending. Middle grade and teen readers will find this an engaging story."
From the Publisher
* "Carley is a modern-day Gilly Hopkins, bright and strong, angry and deeply hurt. . . . By the end of this poignant debut, readers will be applauding Carley's strength. . . . A worthy addition to the foster-family shelf." — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Hunt's heart-wrenching debut believably captures Carley's painful one-step-forward, two-steps-back process, particularly as she acts out in order to protect dealing with her emotions. . . . Carley promises Mrs. Murphy that she'll 'have a happy life someday,' and readers will be cheering her on." — Booklist

"Carley's struggles with anger, regret, and self-worth both balance and deepen this coming-of-age tale. . . . Speaks to the universal experience of growing up but will especially resonate with readers who have questioned the hands they have been dealt and wonder how to move forward nonetheless. . . . Vacillates between uplifting and heartbreaking as Carley learns to love, be loved, and let go." — The Horn Book

"Undeniably affecting. Hunt's writing is strong and her characters well-developed and believable . . . readers will . . . be drawn into this story of a girl's struggle against the ingrained belief that she is undeserving of kindness and generosity." — Publishers Weekly

"This debut novel holds its own. . . . Affectingly told. Believing that she can, someday, have a loving family of her own . . . makes a different kind of happy ending. Middle grade and teen readers will find this an engaging story." — Voice of Youth Advocates

VOYA - Amber Brown
One For The Murphys is a heart-warming story. Throughout the book it will make readers laugh, cry, and appreciate what is truly important in life. This reviewer enjoyed this book because it emphasizes that, even when it seems like all hope is lost, there is some light to be found. Reviewer: Amber Brown, Teen Reviewer
VOYA - Marla K. Unruh
Carley arrives at her new foster home still wearing her hospital bracelet. No one will tell her what is happening with her still-unconscious mother, and memories of her abusive stepfather make it hard for her to think she will be treated kindly anywhere. She tries to ease her pain by counting steps, counting stripes, counting leaves. Julie Murphy and her husband receive Carley kindly, though, and the two youngest Murphy boys immediately win her heart. The oldest son resents Carley until she teaches him how to improve his basketball playing. Just when Carley begins to believe that she could belong to a real family and just when she realizes that she wants to stay with the Murphys, her mother awakens and calls for her. The plight of the foster child has been done before and done well by authors such as Katherine Paterson and Cynthia Voigt. This debut novel holds its own, however. Through first-person narrative, the author reveals Carley's anger and her determination to hide her fear the way mother taught her. Carley's journey through learning to receive the love of her foster family and then accepting that she must leave them is affectingly told. Believing that she can, someday, have a loving family of her own no matter what she goes through with her mother, makes a different kind of happy ending. Middle grade and teen readers will find this an engaging story. Reviewer: Marla K. Unruh
Kirkus Reviews
Sent to a foster home after a beating from her stepfather, eighth-grader Carley Connors learns about a different kind of family life, first resisting and then resisting having to leave the loving, loyal Murphys. Carley is a modern-day Gilly Hopkins, bright and strong, angry and deeply hurt. She's torn between her love for her mother and her memory of the fight that sent her to the hospital, when her mother caught and held her for her stepfather. Her foster-care placement is terrifying. Mr. Murphy, a fire chief, and his eldest son Daniel don't even want her there, and Mrs. Murphy is just too nice. It is 4-year-old Michael Eric and his red-headed brother Adam who first break the ice. Slowly won over at home by the boys' open affection and Mrs. Murphy's patience and surprising understanding, Carley also finds a friend at school in the prickly, Wicked-obsessed Toni. The first-person narration allows readers inside Carley's head as she fights against both showing emotion and her growing pleasure in belonging to their world. There's plenty of snappy dialogue as well. By the end of this poignant debut, readers will be applauding Carley's strength even if they're as unhappy as Carley is about the resolution. A worthy addition to the foster-family shelf. (Fiction. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399256158
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 5/10/2012
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 311,825
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 520L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.34 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

Lynda Mullaly Hunt received the Tassy Walden Award for her first draft of One for the Murphys, which is her debut novel. She lives in Marlborough, Connecticut.

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Read an Excerpt

One

FOR THE

Murphys

My mother had a

different way of doing things.

Officially, this is my fourth day in captivity. I have started keeping tally on the back of that dumb hero sign. One good thing, though. Mrs. Murphy has cleared some time to take me clothes shopping. In an actual store.

This is a far cry from my mother and I making late-night visits to Salvation Army drop boxes to “shop.” I remember how she’d hand me a flashlight, hoist me into the bins, and then make requests for sizes and specific colors like I was sitting in there with a doting saleslady and a catalog.

It was cool, though, how we’d go to McDonald’s afterward and my mother would hold up her ice cream as if to toast me. “Carley, what would I do without you?” she’d ask.

Back when I was little, I used to wonder why there weren’t lines of people at those bins. I figured my mother must be the most clever mother anywhere.

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One

FOR THE

Murphys

NANCY PAULSEN BOOKS

A division of Penguin Young Readers Group.

Published by The Penguin Group.

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014, U.S.A.

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada

(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.).

Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England.

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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England.

Copyright © 2012 by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission

in writing from the publisher, Nancy Paulsen Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group,

345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014. Nancy Paulsen Books, Reg. U.S. Pat. & Tm. Off.

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does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

Published simultaneously in Canada. Printed in the United States of America.

Design by Ryan Thomann. Text set in Arno Pro.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Hunt, Lynda Mullaly. One for the Murphys / Lynda Mullaly Hunt. p. cm.

Summary: “After heartbreaking betrayal, Carley is sent to live with a foster family and struggles with opening herself up to their love”—Provided by publisher. [1. Foster home care—Fiction. 2. Mothers and daughters—Fiction. 3. Stepfathers—Fiction. 4. Family problems—Fiction. 5. Family life—Connecticut—Fiction. 6. Connecticut—Fiction.] I. Title. PZ7.H9159One 2012 [Fic]—dc23 2011046708

ISBN 978-1-101-57212-2

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

CHAPTER 1

Lucky Girl

Sitting in the back of the social worker’s car, I try to remember how my mother has always said to never show your fear. She’d be disappointed to see me now. Shaking. Just going without a fight.

The social worker, Mrs. MacAvoy, pulls out of the hospital parking lot while I play with the electric-lock button on her car door. Lock. Unlock. Lock. Unlock. She glares at me in the mirror and says, “Please… stop that. The door needs to stay locked.”

I love it when people use the word please but they sound like they want to remove your face. I stop. But I’m not doing it to bug her like she thinks. It’s just that I can’t keep still. And it beats jumping out of a moving car.

My fingers play with my hospital bracelet. I stare at my name. Carley Connors. Thirteen letters. How unlucky can one person be?

I think about my mother. Still there, lying in her hospital bed like an eggplant. I wonder if she’s conscious yet. I wonder why no one will tell me what’s happening with her. And I wonder why I can’t seem to ask anymore.

Gazing out the window, I count the trees. Connecticut is covered with them, but in March the branches are still bare. Like long, gray fingers waving us along as we speed by.

“We’re almost there,” Mrs. MacAvoy says, taking a corner faster than I think any social worker is supposed to.

I think back to sitting in that hospital bed, bunching the blankets up in my fists, asking her if they were going to send me to an orphanage. “We don’t call them orphanages anymore,” she’d said, shaking her head and laughing. Like that was the point?

Now I’m trapped in her car going to a place she’s chosen. After what my stepfather has done, I’m terrified thinking about what kind of foster house I may land in. The things that could happen to me.

I think of the Little Mermaid mural near the nurse’s station. How the tooth fairy gave me that CD when I was seven, and my mother let me get up to listen when I found it under my pillow at midnight. We danced around the kitchen together. She sang “Kiss the Girl” as she chased me to get a kiss. I never once ran away for real.

“You know,” Mrs. MacAvoy says, pulling me back to reality. “You’re very lucky, Carley.”

“You’re kidding me, right?”

Her mouth bunches up. “Well.” She sounds like a ticking bomb. “It’s a nice home. A good placement. You are lucky.”

“Guess I should buy a lottery ticket then.”

“Someday, Carley, you’re going to have to realize that being angry at the whole world only hurts you.”

I wonder if that isn’t the point.

We drive up to a house the color of dirt. Tall, thin trees surround it, like guards on watch. There is a “66” on the mailbox. A palindrome.

Mrs. MacAvoy opens the car door for me. “This is a very nice family, Carley.” She puts emphasis on my name as if to give me a warning. “And this is the first time they’ve taken a foster child…”

I know this is her way of telling me to be a “good girl.” The walk up the driveway feels like wading through glue. I’ve read books and seen movies. I know what foster parents are like. They smoke cigars and feed you saltines for breakfast.

One, two, three… seven, eight, nine. Standing on the porch, I count the leaves on the plastic wreath that hangs on the door. The bright redness of the flowers reminds me of the swirling lights of the ambulance. I have a vague memory of my mother screaming for me and my own voice trying to yell for her. And the taste of blood; I remember that.

I remember the blinding pain surging through my body and then feeling nothing at all. Wondering if a person like me would go to heaven.

I jump when the door swings open, and a woman smiles. She is the kind of person you’d never look at twice. Her hair is shoulder length, straight, and different shades of brown. Her blue V-neck sweater matches her eyes, and she wears a silver leaf necklace and plaid pants. I mean, plaid pants?

She holds out her hand. “Hello, Carley. How nice to meet you. I’m Julie Murphy.”

I can’t reach back. Even the name feels fake. Too perky. I wonder why she’s happy to meet me. I wonder how much she knows. And I hope that I do not like her.

Then this whole thing gets even worse.

Mrs. Murphy steps to the side. Behind her stand three boys. The smallest one runs over, stretching his hands up toward his mother, and she swoops him up.

I can’t stay here. I’m probably here to be a live-in babysitter or a modern-day Cinderella.

The oldest boy looks at me like he wants to wrap me in a carpet and leave me on the curb.

I haven’t cried since my mother told me she was going to marry Dennis. That was 384 days ago, but I want to cry now.

His mother tips her head to the side and holds my gaze until I just can’t look anymore. I hear her voice. Soft. “Why don’t you come in, Carley?”

CHAPTER 2

The First Step

While Mrs. MacAvoy blathers on, Mrs. Murphy focuses on the bruises on my arms; her look of pity crawls inside of me. Clasping my hands behind my back, I try to hide my arms so she can’t see.

The middle boy starts pulling Matchbox cars from his pants pockets and holds them against his chest. He’s the dirtiest but seems the most serious, even with a head full of red curls.

The one in her arms is about four, I guess. He wears a plastic fireman’s hat, little fire hydrant boxers, and bright yellow rain boots. A great blackmail picture when the kid’s about sixteen.

“This is Daniel,” she says, pointing to the tallest one. “And my redheaded car guy is Adam, and my littlest guy is Michael Eric. Say hi, guys!”

I look at this family. A family I don’t know. That I am supposed to stay with. I try to swallow my panic.

The whole place smells like dryer sheets. Reminds me of Lucky’s Laundromat back in Vegas, but it isn’t nearly as bright. The fireplace spans an entire wall in the step-down family room; the mantel is covered with St. Patrick’s Day decorations.

Mrs. MacAvoy leaves, saying, “Good luck.” I wonder which one of us she’s talking to.

When Mrs. Murphy closes the door behind her, she turns to me.

“Let’s get you settled in,” she says. The idea of me settling in here is about as likely as an apple tree sprouting in my ear.

She picks up the backpack that Family Services gave me, which has a stuffed giraffe, a toothbrush, and a pair of bright yellow fairy pajamas that remind me that there are worse things than death. The stuffed giraffe is good, though. Anyone who has had her whole life shredded in one night should have a stuffed giraffe.

Mrs. Murphy takes me up the staircase. There are thirteen steps to the top, the tenth one being a squeaker. Soon we stand in a bedroom decorated in the theme of fire trucks. On the wall over the bed, there’s a red wooden sign that reads BE SOMEONE’S HERO in white letters, and I consider the cruel irony of sleeping under this phrase.

“Sorry about the room. I know it isn’t well suited to a girl your age. I moved Michael Eric in with Adam so you’d have some privacy. You know, I assumed you’d be a boy.” She looks at me over her shoulder and seems a little embarrassed. “I mean, I was surprised to hear that you were a girl.”

“Yeah, me too.”

Straightening the corner of the bed, she laughs. “What a clip.”

I wonder what that means. I like it.

“I was thinking. If you want to call me Julie instead of Mrs. Murphy, that would be fine. Not so formal.”

“Okay,” I say, thinking that I don’t want to call her Julie like we’re friends. I don’t want to call her anything. She seems okay, but I don’t want someone else’s family.

“I’m going to get Michael Eric and Adam cleaned up and start dinner. Mrs. MacAvoy said you’d been asking for books at the hospital, so I put a bunch you may like on the top shelf there.” She nods toward a bookcase.

I turn to look at them. Best thing so far.

“We’re having lasagna for dinner. I hope that’s okay.”

“Stouffer’s or store brand?”

“Uh, no. I mean neither. I made it a couple of weeks ago and stuck it in the basement freezer.” She seems embarrassed. “So I guess you could say it’s frozen, then?”

She made it herself? Seriously?

Mrs. Murphy turns to go, closing the door behind her.

“Hey!”

“Yeah?” she answers, stepping back in.

“Do you have a husband?” I ask, staring at her wedding band and thinking of my stepfather, Dennis.

“Yes, I do.” She sounds all singsongy. “My husband, Jack, is working at the firehouse today, but he’ll be home tomorrow morning. He knows you’re here.”

I am afraid again. “Okay. Thanks.”

She leaves, and soon I hear splashing from the bathroom and it sounds like there are ten boys in the tub instead of two. I stand at the door and want to go in but don’t. I see the Murphys’ bedroom door is open, so I go in there instead.

The bed is high off the ground and has a woven canopy over it. There are pictures all over the room on tables and shelves. There’s a man in a Navy uniform. There’s also a wedding picture, and I see that the groom is the same as the Navy guy. I wish my mother had been married to my father.

The bathroom door opens behind me, and I feel like I’ve been caught doing something wrong. I jump back into the table, and the Navy man picture smashes on the floor. I blurt out, “Sorry.”

“Carley. Never mind that. I’ll clean it later. But be careful. Don’t cut yourself.”

I stare at her. When will she get mad?

“There’s a little step stool in here,” she says. “Why don’t you come sit and join us?”

What sounds like a plastic cup falls on the floor in the bathroom followed by a loud little-boy laugh. She pokes her head in. “Michael Eric. Leave the water in the tub, honey.”

Honey.

She turns toward me, waiting for an answer. I can see she becomes impatient as her gaze jumps between me and the bathroom.

“Sorry,” I say. I wonder if my mother is awake yet.

She seems to force a smile. “The picture is no big deal. Jack hates it anyway.”

My mouth dries up. I know I am not apologizing for the picture. I am sorry for being there in the first place.

Mrs. Murphy lets me skip dinner. Says it’s only for the first night. I hear a happy family downstairs, talking and laughing, and I am relieved that I am not with them.

In the dark bedroom that is not my own, I count the wheels on the trucks over and over. I count the little firemen running around to help people. I stare at the hero sign and count the curves and lines of the letters. I wonder if, in my whole life, I could ever be someone’s hero.

I think I hear my mother calling my name in the night, and I pull the covers up under my chin. I remind myself how she told me to never cry. How she and her friends would laugh at me when I did. How my mother would tell me that crying was for suckers, and that you can’t be a sucker in Vegas.

I know that wherever my mother is, she has to be thinking about me, and I know I will go to her if she needs me, no matter what the state says. I hope that if I’m patient, I will have a mother of my own again.

CHAPTER 3

Orange You Glad You’re Here?

At night, the house is quiet. Too quiet for sleeping.

The digital clock reads 2:34 a.m.; I like the consecutive numbers. I watch and wait for 2:35 because two plus three will be five. At 2:36, two times three will be six.

The number six makes me remember my mother’s favorite vase. How I filled it with six big, clear marbles with deep blue swirls inside, even when she told me not to. How my elbow sent it to the carpeted floor, and how when we cleaned it up, there were six pieces. We glued the vase back together, but it was misshapen and couldn’t hold water anymore.

I’m afraid that’s the way my mother and I will be now. I’m afraid that no matter how many times I apologize for messing things up with her new husband, Dennis, we will remain misshapen and unable to hold water.

I so wish I’d been able to see her before leaving the hospital. I think back to my last night there—just twenty-four hours ago. About how I tried to sneak out of my room and find my mother in intensive care. How I kept thinking that if I was any daughter at all, I’d be able to find her.

When the nurse caught me, I blurted out to her how sorry I was for making Dennis mad. Like by telling her, my mother would know too.

The nurse walked me back to my room and told me to get some sleep. I don’t know why, when things are horrible, people always tell you to get some sleep. I bet it’s because if you’re asleep, they know you’ll leave them alone.

When she turned to leave, I remember thinking that I was afraid to be alone.

The nurse turned out the lights before she left. And I was in the dark.

Just like I am now.

The next morning, I sip orange juice. Good, ordinary, boring orange juice with no added kiwi or pomegranate.

Mrs. Murphy went out last night to get it for me after I told her I only liked it plain. I think it’s freakish that she got it just because I’d asked for it. Whenever I’d asked my mother for orange juice, she’d ask me if I were a Rockefeller. For years I’d thought that a Rockefeller was a person who really loves oranges.

The back door slams and there’s instant screaming and crying; now this place finally feels a little like home.

Michael Eric comes in with his hand tucked into his armpit. His mother drops to the floor like someone has kicked her behind the knees, but she lands gently, holding out her arms, and he melts into them. He tells how Adam smashed his hand. She takes his hand and kisses it. “My poor ole boy,” she whispers. “Does that feel better?”

His crying stops.

She wipes his tears away and he spins and runs back outside. Then Mrs. Murphy goes to the door and calls Adam.

Again she kneels and asks him if he hit his little brother. At first he denies it. Then she poses a simple question. “Are you telling me the truth?”

She’s got to be kidding. If there’s half a brain in his head, he’ll stick to the story.

He pauses and says, “I whaled him, Mommy, but he deserved it.”

I think that it’s funny to have “whaled him” and “Mommy” in the same sentence, and I decide that I like Adam.

She tilts her head. “What have we said about this?”

“I’m supposed to protect him ’cause he’s my brother.”

“That’s right. Brothers stick together, right? Family looks out for family.”

I stand in a place with no space.

My stomach has such a longing in it that I want to throw up. The tone, the look on her face and the look on his, a gentle brush of his hair. A kiss on top of the head. I struggle to decipher a foreign language. She’s looking at him like she’s seeing the best thing ever. Even though he’s done something wrong.

I no longer have the stomach for this juice that she bought for me. I go to the sink and pour it out. I don’t belong here. I begin to think that a foster mother who smokes cigars and makes me sleep in the basement would be a relief.

CHAPTER 4

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Carley

When Mrs. Murphy comes back into the kitchen, she looks nervous as she studies me. She seems to think about things a lot before she speaks, which makes me wonder what she doesn’t say.

“So,” Mrs. Murphy begins, in her perky voice. “Do you know what you’d like to do today?”

I shrug. What’s with her? She makes it sound like I’m on a vacation.

“Would it be okay if I go shoot baskets?”

“You play basketball?” Perky Murphy asks.

“Yeah, I was on the team back home.” I remember how my mother would come to the games and yell for me. How she’d tell the refs to go back to reffing blind man’s basketball when they made a call against me. How I thought it was funny, but the other mothers used to tell her that it was inappropriate, which only made her louder.

“Well, you and Daniel should get along really well.”

Great,” I say, thinking that I’ll be back with my mother before that could even happen.

“You can borrow my coat,” she says. “It’s cold.”

I can’t because she suggested it.

She glances at me and then glances again. “You may borrow that, if you’d rather,” she says, motioning toward a gray hoodie. I put it on.

Outside, I find a basketball right away. It’s green with shamrocks. Can’t anything just be the way I expect around here?

It’s cold outside. Not like Vegas. I can see my breath, and it reminds me of the smoke in the casinos when my mother would leave me in the lobby to wait for her. She’d do a few of the slot machines just inside the door where she could see me waiting on the bench. How she’d do a thumbs-up when she won, or yell “Send me luck!” when she didn’t.

Standing there in the cold, in front of the house that’s the color of dirt, I decide to ask God a question.

I close my eyes and turn the ball in my hands. I say in a whisper, “Okay. If I make this basket, then my mother still loves me.”

Bending my knees, I shoot, watching the ball spin in the air. It gets wedged between the board and the back of the hoop. I know that means something, but I don’t know what.

“Wicked good one,” says a voice behind me. At first, I think it’s God. Like he has time to talk to me.

I turn around.

It’s Daniel. “You going to get it down now?” he asks.

“What do you mean? I did the work of getting it up there; you get it down.”

I hear a car. Daniel waves to a guy pulling into the driveway in a pickup. It must be Mr. Murphy.

Stellar. Just stellar.

The door of the truck squeaks when he opens it. He slams the door, messes Daniel’s hair, looks up at the ball, and says, “Good shot.”

“It was her,” Daniel says, pointing.

Mr. Murphy comes toward me, faster than I would like. He holds out his hand. “Nice to meet you, Carley,” he says, but his face says that I’m here to infect his family with malaria. He makes me want to run.

Mrs. Murphy comes out through the garage. Mr. Murphy kisses her on the cheek and whispers something. She smiles at him. Then he grabs a small duffel bag from his truck and heads inside.

“Mom,” Daniel says, pointing. “Look what she did.”

Mrs. Murphy’s smile falls away, and now she’s rattled. I hear worry in her voice. “So get it down, Daniel. Problem solving, right?”

Clearly, he wanted a little of my blood instead of a suggestion to do it himself. I hardly know Daniel, but I hate him anyway. I have this feeling, though, that if I don’t lay off the prince, Mrs. MacAvoy will be back for me.

CHAPTER 5

I Should Have Licked the Anthill

I came up to the fireman room after Daniel complained that I’m wearing his sweatshirt. I hate having to wear his clothes, but I’m glad the sleeves cover my bruises. No more pity face from his mother.

I sit on the floor, holding the giraffe that came in my Family Services backpack, rubbing my finger back and forth along its soft brown mane.

Michael Eric walks in.

“Don’t you knock first?” I ask.

“But this is my room,” he says.

Oh yeah.

He marches over and sits down. “Whatcha doin’?”

“Just thinking.”

“Why would you be doing just that?”

I almost laugh at how little he knows of the world. “Sometimes you can’t help but think, even if you don’t want to.”

“Like when you pee in your pants?”

I laugh now. Maybe he knows more than I thought. “Yeah. Kind of like that. Not so messy, though.”

He giggles this laugh that comes right from his belly. If a sound could dance, this is what it would be like. He reaches for the giraffe, and I let him take it. He holds it against the side of his face. “Who is this?” he asks.

“Just a stuffed giraffe.”

“Well, what’s his name?”

“He doesn’t have a name,” I say.

He looks at the giraffe like he doesn’t recognize it anymore. Then he hugs it to his stomach. “Mr. Longneck.”

“Mr. Longneck, huh?”

“Yeah, ’cause he’s got a long neck.” He holds it in front of my face. “See?”

“Funny. I hadn’t noticed that.”

“Silly Carley. Of course a giraffe has a long neck. That’s what makes him a giraffe!”

Funny how something can be defined by the one thing that makes it different from everything else. Like “the foster kid.”

I turn to him and act confused. “I thought a giraffe had a trunk.”

“No,” he says like he feels sorry for me. He leans over and whispers in my ear. “That’s an elephant.”

“Oh. Well, thanks for setting me straight.”

He sits up. “That’s okay. I don’t mind.”

I have to smile. I like Michael Eric, too. How can he and Adam possibly be related to Daniel?

“Can I keep Mr. Longneck?” he asks me.

I’m surprised. I mean, I know I should give it to him because he’s a little kid and everything, but besides the clothes I’m wearing and my high tops, Mr. Longneck is pretty much all I have in the whole world right now. “Sorry, bud. I don’t think so.”

He shrugs. “Oh,” he says. Then his eyebrows jump. “Can you play with me?”

I feel like I should, but I really just want to sit. “Can we another time maybe?”

He stands and then bends over so his face is upside down. “We’ll play on Friday. Oh, and Mommy wants you to come down for lunch now.”

I’d rather lick an anthill than eat lunch, but I nod, and he is out as fast as he was in.

Perky Murphy stands near the sink making sandwiches. She turns to me. “Chicken, ham, or tuna?”

“I can make it myself.”

“Don’t be silly.” She smiles. “Let me make it for you.”

I don’t want her to make it for me.

“So, which one do you think?” she asks.

“I really don’t mind making it myself.” I don’t want her to wait on me. It feels wrong.

“I really don’t mind, Carley. I mean, c’mon, it’s only a sandwich. Chicken, ham, or tuna?” Her eyes widen.

I am dying to say roast beef.

“Perhaps you’d prefer something from the cabinet? There are some microwavable meals in there.”

I almost feel sorry for her. She’s so pathetic. Like the world would come apart if everyone doesn’t get a perfect little lunch. I think of how watching my mother talk to her would be like watching a kitten play with a ball of yarn.

But the feeling in my gut whispers that maybe I’m a little mad about all the gallons of chicken noodle soup I’ve eaten right out of the can. Still though, this Perky Murphy is as fragile as they come.

She wouldn’t last a second in my world.

I open the cabinet looking for a can of chicken noodle soup, so that I can feel like I’m in my own place. The first thing I notice are the Oreos. My mother’s favorite.

I almost burst out laughing, though, when I see how everything is arranged by size with the labels facing forward. I mumble to myself, “And on the third day, God created the seas and the mountains and this freakish cabinet in Connecticut.”

Yet looking at it, something creeps across my scalp. So while Mrs. Murphy is distracted by Michael Eric stuffing his entire sandwich in his mouth at once, I mess everything up, turning the cans around and upside down. The earth should fall off its axis when she opens this.

I sit down, holding a can of soup, trying to decide if I should eat it cold or not. Daniel shows up; he and his mom discuss what he should eat. Like the leaders of two nations have come together to work out something actually important. These people are too much.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 84 )
Rating Distribution

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(69)

4 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 84 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2012

    This is a touching account of a girl named Carley Conners who fi

    This is a touching account of a girl named Carley Conners who finds herself in a foster home full of Murphys. The Murphys are good people, willing to let Carley into their hearts and home, but Carley isn't used to that concept. As the story unfolds, you begin to understand how a girl could feel she somehow doesn't deserve a stable place with people who love her. There are revelations that are truly surprising, and took my breath away. Lynda Mullaly Hunt's writing is spot on- you feel like you are in Carley's head, navigating these uncharted waters right along with her. If you think you know how a book like this might end, you probably don't. I didn't see it coming, and I am glad I didn't. It's an engaging story right up to the authentic end. Give this one a read and you're apt to gain some real insight into what it means to belong and what is truly important in your own life.

    12 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2012

    This book is pretty Wicked...

    We read this in class, it is a touching book about a twelve year old named Carley Conners, her step father abused her and she was put into foster care. The Murphys seem too perky and perfect at first but she learns that sometimes "it's time to be changed for the better"(-Wicked) I love this book dearly, the abuse and violence may be scary for children under the age of 10, but I'm sure that if you read it first it is probably ok for as young as you see fit...

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 10, 2012

    This lovely, character-driven story about twelve year-old foster

    This lovely, character-driven story about twelve year-old foster child Carley Connors should resonate not only with kids who are or have been in the foster care system, but with any kid who has ever felt like an outsider, or has felt weird and unlovable. It's hard to fit in when you're twelve no matter what your story is.

    The writing is clean and unadorned with sentimentality, much like Carley herself as she moves through a scary new chapter of her life that she had no part in naming. There's plenty of wit and memorable characters (I wished I'd had a friend in school like Toni Byers, or a Social Studies teacher like Mr. Ruben), and so much heart and soul here that I barreled through the book in one sitting because I HAD to find out how Carley's story turned out. Five days later she's still here in my head. Score!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 18, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A Beautiful Account of What Family Really Means

    4.5 stars

    Carly Connors is a beaten down, jaded, kind of bitter, but truly sweet girl. She’s had a rough life, gone through more than any child should, and starts off the story by heading to a foster home. These are all things that many middle grade readers cannot relate to, but then we see the kind Carly who has a knack for the sarcastic and who loves making the two little boys she moves in with happy.

    Throughout Carly’s time with the Murphy’s, we see every side there is to her: She’s young and vulnerable, so we see her cry; she’s tough and has had to grow up far too fast, so she’s smart and independent; she could easily be closed off because how she’s been treated in the past, but slowly, she opens up. Her relationship with Mrs. Murphy is the backbone of the book and incredibly touching. Carly grows to love this mother figure that she never really had before.

    Carly’s relationship with her schoolmate, Toni, has all kinds of wonderful parallels to her own life and teaches her more than one lesson, but it never comes off as preachy. There was not one moment in the book that I could imagine a middle grade reader becoming frustrated with. The pace and the tone of the book remain constant throughout and the entire story comes off as realistic. Toni’s obsession with Wicked is also a nice touch.

    Any Bostonian will appreciate the little nods to the Red Sox. I know I enjoyed it, along with Mr. Murphy’s true Sox fan attitude toward the Yankees. His reaction to Toni’s taunting help to lighten the mood. Because with such a deep and emotional subject matter, One For the Murphys does have its tearjerker moments. It would be wise to have a box of tissues handy, especially towards the end.

    One For the Murphys is a heartfelt, heartbreaking, subtle, and beautifully realistic show of one girl’s journey from broken home to finding out what family means. The characters have so much depth and readers will find themselves thoroughly attached to Carly Connors and the entire Murphy family. Lynda Mullaly Hunt has masterfully taken the subject of fostering and opened it up to a new audience. Carly’s story has its ups and downs (remember those tissues!), but the ending is perfectly bittersweet.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 22, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Carley’s life has never been picture perfect, but there is

    Carley’s life has never been picture perfect, but there is one thing that keeps her going, the love she has for her mother and the love she believes is returned. That is, until the day her mother betrays Carley, choosing an abusive man over her very own daughter and places Carley’s life is in jeopardy.

    After a brutal attack by her stepfather that left Carley with several bruises and her mother heavily sedated in a hospital bed, Carley is released and is left in the care of a foster family. Carley’s emotions are spinning, she feels betrayed, but nevertheless, she doesn't want to live with another family.

    Never knowing how it feels to be part of a real family, one that loves and genuinely cares for one another, once Carley experiences such affection, she feels as though she doesn’t belong and that she doesn’t deserve the kindness that the Murphys have shown her. After several weeks have passed, the time has come for Carley to return in her mother’s custody. Will Carley return to her mother and receive that warm and loving embrace she’s been dreaming of, or will her emotions toward the Murphys prevent her from leaving?

    One For The Murphys is an emotional tale that will leave readers shedding tears at this heartfelt story of Carley Connors and the journey she takes to discover herself as well as the true meaning of the love of a family.

    My favorite aspect of One For The Murphys is how relatable and engaging the characters were. To me, the characters were real. I could clearly imagine young Michael Eric tie a cape around his shoulders, run around the living room and pretend to be a superhero, watch Adam play Michael Eric’s sidekick or ignore him to play with his cars, and of course, watch Daniel dribble the ball and smile brightly at Carley in the stands just at that moment where he finally scores his first shot at his basketball game. I could also smell the delicious pie Mrs. Murphy makes just for Carley when she needs it most, and hear Mr. Murphy cheer for his favorite baseball team no matter the score after a long day of working at the fire station. There were so many special moments that Carley experiences in the novel that made me laugh along with the characters or reach out for a box of tissues, moments that are truly unforgettable.

    Lynda Mullaly Hunt is a phenomenal writer whose work I hope to read more of. One For The Murphys is one of my favorite reads of 2012 so far, and Lynda Mullaly Hunt should be commended for this truly wonderful and unforgettable debut.

    I recommend One For The Murphys to those who enjoy reading Young Adult and Contemporary titles.

    5/5 MUST READ! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2013

    Dont buy the free sample

    Dont buy the free sample. It only gives you 8 pages, and none of them are even the writing in the book. Dont waste space on your nook and just buy it or not. Read some reviews maybe? Well i can tell you the book is good!

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2013

    Best book ive ever read

    This is an amazing heart warming read for all ages

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2012

    A must for foster/adoptive families

    Thank you from a foster/adoptive home for almost 30 years.
    Lana

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2012

    Congrats Mrs.Hunt!

    I am proud to say I met you in person today. I am wearing my wrist band right now! The book is amazing and sitting in the front row seat of your presentation was awesome! I am going to write my own book someday, you inspire me Mrs.Hunt!

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2013

    The day comes when Carley connors becomes a foster child and mov

    The day comes when Carley connors becomes a foster child and moves in with the Murphys. The Murphys show her a stable family that she had thought that it never existed. The Murphys show her what it feels to be belong. But until her mother show up and wants her back but carley can't decide where and how to live. She said shes not really a Murphy but the gifts they given her have opened a future.
    When Carley connors  find’s out the truth that  her mother didn't tell her what had happen and what was the reason she didn't so she would not have got mad with her and upset because she thought that her mother had helped dennis smack her.
    The characters were awesome because how they thought things and their reactions were good  like at the end carley didn't know with who do go with her mother in vegas or stay with the murphys who showed her a lot of surprises and showed her that a real family existed. Even if some harsh things happened to her she know just to keep going and do what you think is best.
    This is a great book that makes you want to know what is going to happen next in the story .and I recommend it to teenagers.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2013

    ?

    When I got the sample it only showed me the table of contents now I don't know what the book is like?!
    (I am giving this book a fake review because i have not read it yet)

    2 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2014

    Must Read

    This is my ALL TIME favorite book. My friend reccomended it to me, but I thought it would be too sad, and I really don't like sad books. I didn't read it. She basiacly forced me to read this book after a while because she loved it so much, so eventually I read it. Oh my gosh, we talk about this book NONSTOP! Do I have to say that we're both obsessed wit books? Lol we both just loved it! Its about a girl who got abused by her stepfather. Carley ends up in her foster home, the Murphys, who treat her 'too well', as she doesn't understand why they care about her so much. (Carley thinks this way because her mother, a Vegas girl, was not the most loving mother at times.) She ends up loving the Murphys, after living in their life for a while. Then, Carleys mother breaks some news that leaves Carley with lots of tears, thoughts, confusion, and a few important decisions.


    Again, this beautiful book is a must read! If you like this book, I would also reccomend 'Almost Home' by Joan Baur. Its about a young girl, Sugar, who loses her home. Sugar, her mom Reba, and their dog Shush end up homeless. When Reba has a serious and scary breakdown, Sugar has to work hard to stay her positive self with her foster family.



    This book almost compliments One for the Murphy's. It has to do with young girls losing their homes, losing their parrents (but not perminently), and trying to navigate the world when its toughest. HOWEVER, and I think this is amazing, Sugar and Carley's story's are very similar, right? Well, their personalities, especially in the beginning of the book, couldn't be more different. You get to think as your reading One for the Murphys, "How would Sugar handle this problem?" And while reading Almost Home, you might say to yourself, "Wow, Carley would not agree with Sugar there" Its perfect. For some reason, at least to me, these characters are the sister characters of the realistic fiction genre! They could relate to eachother with their thoughts and problems, but they verbally express them so different. They couldn't be more different in their alike stories, but little things make them click.


    In summary: Read One for the Murphys. Next, pick up Almost Home. Do you see what i mean? Mrs. Hunt, if you ever, ever, ever can, please read this review of your amazing book. You know Carley so well, I'd love to see if you agree with me.


    Thank you all,
    An 11 year old Bookworm

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2014

    So sad

    She shouldve stayed with her foster family.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2013

    Love

    Love this book

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2013

    My favorite book ever~

    I love this book. The end is so sad how Carly might not be able to see the Murphys again. I recomended this book to kids9-14.(But its a great book for everyone.) If you have not read this book make sure you do. Then when your done reading it tell us what you thought. You can just write a review or you can write a review to cakepop123. I love to here what you think about books!
    cakepop123

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 18, 2012

    This debut novel is full of heart and humor. When the story begi

    This debut novel is full of heart and humor. When the story begins, Carley is a victim of intimate violence. She endures bruises, a hospital stay, and the greatest betrayal of all, without shedding a tear. While in foster care with the Murphy family, Carley experiences the unconditional love of a family. The experience changes her forever. So why is she crying now? You'll have to read the book to find out. One for the Murphys leaves the reader with one important unanswered question, How can I be somebody's hero?

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2012

    Anonymous

    I loved this book! It is my new favorite book. My favorite character is Michael Eric. :)

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 16, 2012

    A poignant read that drew me in from the start. My Rating: 4

    A poignant read that drew me in from the start.


    My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

    Disclaimers: I received this book for review as part of the Debut Author Challenge Blog Tour in exchange for my honest review. Thanks Tara and Lisa.

    My Overall Thoughts/Impressions: In one sentence: A poignant read that drew me in from the start. This book was nothing like I thought it would be and yet it was ten times better. I've always loved this genre and even thought it was about a younger girl, I found myself falling in love with the story.

    Hunt's debut novel definitely is one of the best realistic contemporary fiction novels I've read this year. Hunt created an all-star cast from even the most minor character to the main character Carley. I found myself thoroughly entertained by all of the characters and loved nearly all of them.

    Carley was a character that I really liked. She's been in an abusive situation and yet she is still so caring and such a good person. Naturally, she's got her "issues" but she was a character that left me smiling and one that I loved reading about.

    Mrs. Murphy was amazing. There is no other way to say it. I admired her from the moment Hunt introduced her in the novel. However, like I mentioned earlier, all of the characters in this book were fantastic.

    The writing was fantastic. Hunt wrote in a compelling manner that left me feeling like I really was in Carley's head. I felt connected with her and consequently the whole story. The story flowed nicely and didn't lag. Definitely an amazing read. Read this one you won't regret it.

    In Summary: A beautiful novel that I loved reading. Captivating characters, an intriguing plot, and a poignant writing style made for a brilliant read.

    Warnings/Side-notes: This book deals with violence and abuse, but in a manner that I won't hesitate to recommend this to anybody despite their age.

    The Wrap-up: Books about abuse have always held a soft spot for me. I feel like this is an issue that people don't talk about enough. Abuse is real and its effects are life-altering and traumatic for the victims. I loved that Hunt focused on this theme and admired the way she tackled writing this tale. It was beautiful and I loved reading it.

    Love,

    Danica Page

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2015

    Awesome

    The best book i have ever read

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2015

    A kit with white fur and balck spits padded in...

    "Hello, can I join? I don't have a name though or a mother....." She squeaks.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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