Cage of Stars

Cage of Stars

by Jacquelyn Mitchard

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780759515581
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 05/01/2006
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 525,817
File size: 322 KB

About the Author

JACQUELYN MITCHARD lives in Massachusetts.


Madison, Wisconsin

Place of Birth:

Chicago, Illinois


B.A. in English, Rockford College, 1973

Read an Excerpt

Cage of Stars

By Jacquelyn Mitchard

Warner Books

Copyright © 2006 Jacquelyn Mitchard
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-446-57875-4

Chapter One

At the moment when Scott Early killed Becky and Ruthie, I was hiding in the shed.

It wasn't because I was afraid. I wasn't afraid to die then, and I'm not afraid now. It was because we were playing hide-and-seek. My little sisters always started begging me the minute my parents left me to baby-sit. "Ronnie, Ronnie, Ronnie!" they would tease me, pulling on my shirt while I tried to straighten up the kitchen, "Betcha we can find you this time. Betcha on our chores!" And I would always give in, warning them that if they didn't find me, they were going to spend two hours, until Mama got back, picking up every crayon and every sticker book in their room.

"This time I'm not kidding, Thing One and Thing Two," I told them that day. "I'm not going in there right before Mama gets home and pull all your clean clothes and markers out from under your bed."

"I promise, slalomly," Becky said. I had to laugh. Her teeth were purple from the berries she'd eaten for breakfast. Becky was as thin and fast as a minnow in a creek and seemed to live practically on air. Ruthie was as round and "slalom" as a little koala bear. Her favorite thing was to eat cookie dough right from the bowl.

They wanted to play outside, because it was a really warm, sunny day for November, not that it'sever too cold at the edge of what's practically the Mojave Desert. The purples and yellows and reds of the changing trees that day were as flashy as a marching band.

And so, an hour later, I was crouched down in the shed, behind a big sack of potting soil and a crate of clay, hoping a spider didn't pick that time to crawl up my back. I couldn't see my little sisters. But I imagined that they were leaning against the picnic table, where we ate our supper almost every summer night when the bugs weren't bad - our own tomatoes and sweet corn, sometimes with tacos and black beans - listening to the birds making their go-to-sleep sounds. Becky and Ruthie most likely had their little hands over their eyes, counting fast so that they could yell out, "Ready or not, here I come!" Ruthie would call first, I knew. She always did, and Becky always shushed her, saying there was no way she could have gotten to a hundred yet because she, Becky, was older and she hadn't got up to fifty. I know they didn't peek, because I'd told them peeking wasn't fair, and that I wouldn't play unless they played fair.

That day, though, they never made a sound.

I figured they were counting to a hundred silently, because whenever we played hide-and-seek, Becky would count straight up as fast as she could, and Ruthie, who was only four, would say out loud, "One, two, three, four, eight, fourteen, fifteen, ten." Becky would get so confused she'd have to start all over again.

But five minutes went by, and still, they never made a sound. When it got to be a long time, I opened the door.

And I saw my sisters, lying there like little white dolls in great dark pools of paint. I saw Scott Early, a young man with short blond hair, sitting on the picnic table, wearing only his underwear, sobbing as if they were his little sisters, as if a terrible monster had come along and done this. Which was sort of what he did think, though I didn't know that then.

It was a good thing, a doctor later said to my mother, that Becky and Ruthie didn't cry out. It meant that they died quickly. They barely felt a thing. They must never have heard Scott Early come walking barefoot across our lawn. The merciful Father shielded them from fear. Being cut across the carotid artery is a very quick way to die. I knew that, even then, from biology. But it's not over in an instant, and I prayed for months that Becky and Ruthie never had time to wonder why I wasn't there to help them. For I was always there to help them.

Though I was only twelve-almost-thirteen, Mama could trust me to look after the little girls alone, even if she had to be out in the part of the shed that was her "studio" or at the galleries, as far away as St. George, for hours at a time.

"You are as responsible as any mother, Ronnie," Mama quietly told me one night, after the time Becky's hand got burned. Becky had been impatient that morning for her "cheesy eggs," and reached up to see if they were finished while I was cooking. She burned her hand on the pan. Mama said I had "presence of mind" because I didn't start to cry or panic when Becky screamed. I didn't try to put butter on the burn, which my own grandma would have done, because that would have made it worse. From the firstaid section of health class Mama taught me, I remembered that a burn had to be cooled down with water right away or the heat inside would keep right on burning the skin and the damage would go deeper. I put Becky's hand under the cold-water tap for five minutes and wrapped ice in a thick towel and taped it down around her hand. Then I ran, pulling Becky and Ruthie in the wooden wagon, down to our nearest neighbor, Mrs. Emory, who drove us to Pine Mountains Clinic ten miles away, between our house and Cedar City. At the clinic, the doctor, a young woman, placed a net shield and gauze under a bandage on Becky's palm. The doctor spoke so gently to Becky that I suppose it was then that I first thought I would become a doctor one day myself. I wondered if the incident meant I was called to it.

Becky had just a tiny scar on one finger after her hand healed. Our pediatrician, Dr. Pratt, said he wouldn't have done one thing different himself, except to drive her to a hospital. But there wasn't a real hospital within fifty miles of where we lived at the foot of a pine-covered ridge. Where we lived wasn't even really a town. It was a sort of settlement, for people like my father, who always said he liked his "elbow room."

And so, on the day they died, unless paramedics could have arrived at our house within minutes; and everyone knew that was impossible, or unless there was a doctor already at our house; and I was just a child, and Mr. Sissinelli, our neighbor, who was a doctor, was at his hospital, no one could have saved my sisters.

I must not feel guilty, Mama and Papa told me over and over, in the days afterward, although I could see in their eyes and hear in their voices that they felt exactly that way themselves. I was not to feel guilty for being unable to call for help until it was too late, or for being unable to get Papa's gun because he was out hunting for quail, they said. By the time I opened the door on the sight that would change me for the rest of my life, it was already too late.

When the police asked questions about why we weren't supervised, my parents spoke up. They defended me and their choice of leaving me to watch my sisters, telling the officers what a responsible girl I was. I had done just what I should have done. I had been brave. They said that not even a parent could have suspected that Scott Early would even find such a remote place, much less grab the weeding scythe Papa had left leaning against the barn and use it like the sword of an avenging angel, striking a death blow in seconds.

I listened and I nodded, but I didn't really believe them. I didn't want to cause Papa, and especially Mama, any more pain, but no one could say I wasn't guilty. My cousins, and my best friends, Clare and Emma, and even goofy boys like Finn and Miko, said the same thing. But it didn't matter. Even after the panic was gone, and the worst of the agony, the guilt was always there. It could never be turned off. The guilt was like using a plain magnifying glass to focus a beam of sunlight, bringing all that heat together, turning something soft and bright into something that could hurt. Even love couldn't dim it. It was the guilt that made my anger like a burn that no one ever ran under cold water; and so it kept burning and burning down to my bones. And as time went by, and other peoples' cooled down, mine did not. It got hotter, and became a part of me, and it didn't heal until long after. Even now, I think the scars must still be there.


Excerpted from Cage of Stars by Jacquelyn Mitchard Copyright © 2006 by Jacquelyn Mitchard. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Cage of Stars 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 54 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
From the moment I opened this book, I didn't want to put it down.. Although it was exceptionally sad in places, it was a work of determination and desire for a young girl to finally come to grips with a very unhappy time. May Ronnie Swan be an inspiration to us all that good can come from evil.
indygo88 on LibraryThing 20 days ago
This was my first Mitchard novel, and I have to admit that I enjoyed it. It's the story of a pre-teen who indirectly witnesses the murder of her two younger sisters, who then attempts to come to terms with this throughout the remainder of her teen and young adult life. Coming from a Mormon background & a fairly religious community, she deeply struggles with the forgiveness aspect & instead begins to think of revenge, despite the fact that the murderer was mentally ill at the time of the crime & is deeply remorseful for his act. Though I didn't always empathize with the main character, I did think that Mitchard captured the varied emotions of a devastated family well, creating a very thought-provoking and possibly controversial novel. The last third of the novel flowed a little less smoothly than the rest, but it ended up coming full circle and I was satisfied with the ending.
CatieN on LibraryThing 25 days ago
A young Mormon girl, Veronica, and her parents are deeply scarred by an unimaginable crime. The year following the tragedy is about survival. Then after that period of time, each of them makes the choice to forgive or to seek revenge. The characters were well written, and the story held my interest throughout. My only complaint would be that there was one too many coincidences used to move the plot along and to wrap things up neatly at the end.
SmplexlyRee on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Veronica "Ronnie" Swan is 12 years old when she witnesses the murder of her two younger sisters. Her idealistic, picture perfect childhood is destroyed completely in that moment, for not only has she lost her sisters, she suddenly has to become the adult in the house. Her mother gives birth to baby brother Rafe just weeks after the death of the sisters and Ronnie has to spend the next year, until her mother can once again function through the grief, raising the baby.This story of a child growing to womanhood, having to choose between forgiveness or retribution, was a good read. The Swan family has to lean very heavily on their faith (they are Mormons) to cope, and it is this faith that sees Ronnie through.Unfortunately, I feel approximately half of the book was written a bit loosely. The author tightens things up near the middle and finishes solidly, though, so I at least finished with a sense that everything was tidy and complete.
TiffanyAK on LibraryThing 25 days ago
A very good book, with a powerful story. It fell a little flat at a few points, and so wasn't perfect, but was still well worth reading. It's a good powerful story about grief, tragedy, and forgiveness. Veronica is a believable narrator, and lets you feel her pain as she tells her story. Definitely worth the time spent reading it.
Maggie-the-Cat on LibraryThing 25 days ago
AN inside look at the Mormon faith when Ronnie tries to cope with the brutal murder of her younger sisters. How she plots revenge and what happens twists and turns. From start to beginning it was well worth the ride!
ReDefiningAwesome on LibraryThing 25 days ago
If there were a limit to the number of books I was allowed to read in my life, I would choose this book to be one of them. This is a fantastic novel about the dificulty of forgiveness, and how hard it is to recover from tradgedy.
kerbs on LibraryThing 25 days ago
It was okay. At first I felt that the book was wildly depressing as main character, Ronnie describes her sisters' death. The book began to become more detailed as Ronnie and her family begin the grieving process. When her parents choose a way to overcome their grief, Ronnie is appalled and embarks on a journey of her own. The book ends with a unique twist of fate and how it works in mysterious ways.
SugarCreekRanch on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Very powerful story about a Mormon girl who had seen her younger sisters killed by a mentally insane man, and grew up to seek revenge. This is a book with depth, exploring the concepts of forgiveness and justice. But it also has a gripping plot, a romantic subplot, intriguing characters, and great descriptive writing.
rbergman on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Sometimes the separation between revenge and forgiveness is just too wide for words to express. In Veronica Swan's life, her eyes are only set on revenge. After the two brutal murders of her little sisters, Ruthie and Becky, she swore she would exact her revenge on their killer, Scott Early. However, the beliefs of her family held her back (they were Mormon) so she had to leave them to find her own path. The novel follows her revenge trail in avenging her sisters and her unwillingness to accept and forgive. If you want to know what happens in the end, read the book. :) The novel. Cage of Stars, represents the theme of 'Who's the hero?' because it follows a girl who wants to make a path for herself through her muddled up life. She goes through conflict with outside sources (Scott Early) and inside herself. She is an unconventional hero, but still fits the role. I admire that she is so willing and strongly bonded to her family that she seeks the path of bloody revenge for her sisters. I found the themes of the novel satisfactory and engaging, however; the actual writing was hard to follow sometimes. Not because it was difficult to understand the context, but because the beginning is slow and hard to capture your attention but then it speeds up in the end with action. You have to be dedicated to reading this book if you want to endure the slower beginning without giving up hope, but fear not! It will pick up towards the end.
lovelything on LibraryThing 25 days ago
i loved, one of the best ficiton i've read in ages. ist about a girl who has to deal with the death of her two sister, killed by a schiznophrenic man. its very slow and confusing at the start but becomes fast paced half way through, but it was worth it. it made me think about alot of things.
sharlene_w on LibraryThing 25 days ago
The book opens with the shocking murder of 2 young Mormon girls outside of a small town in rural Utah. Their older teenage sister sets out to avenge the murder. It is a mix of family, teenaged angst, religious strength and moral uncertainty. It is a compelling and interesting read; however the author should have employed a knowledgeable Mormon editor along the way. Many of her references to their religious beliefs and behaviors gave away her ignorance of their faith.
shifrack00 on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Interesting premise. Clumsy, I could tell the author was not Mormon because of the self-consciousness with which she describes their theology and practice, and that she "tells, not shows."
cindyloumn on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Girl is babysitting when her baby sisters are killed by a man with a mental illness. How she lives with this. Her anger and grieving, and her families. She moves to avenge her family,but ends up not doing anything. I kept waiting for something bad to happen, but it didn't. 6/3/07
tloeffler on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Mormon teenager Ronnie Swan has to sort out her feelings after the murder of her sisters. A lot of questions are raised about mental health, compassion, punishment and forgiveness. Very thought-provoking.
mimiwi on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This was a pretty good book. I suppose predictable in some ways. I learned quite a bit about Mormons and their families, which demystified them a bit for me. Actually, that was the best part of the book.
coyle220 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Veronica Swann, known as Ronnie, loved her 5-year-old sisters Becky and Ruthie every moment of their short lives, right until a blonde drifter named Scott came into their yard in St. George, Utah and slashed them to death with a weeding scythe. In her Mormon family and community, the only way to comprehend such an event was to turn to God and to each other.
rmostman on LibraryThing 5 months ago
The story opens up with the main character's, Ronnie's, little sisters, Becky and Ruthie, playing hide and seek. Ronnie is hiding in the shed, and one of the other two girls are counting. She heard them call out, but she had assumed it was out of frustration and confusion, and that they had to start all over again. Until she hears silence does she begin to worry that something is wrong. She steps out of the shed and sees a young man standing over her two little sisters bodies, and he is crying as if they are his own sisters and someone else had just come along and done this.After the deaths, Ronnie assumes ownership of her little sisters, and thinks that no one else should mourn for their deaths besides those who knew them. A whole crowd of people had come to the house with white candles and sang "Amazing Grace", and Ronnie lashed out at the them, while the media portrayed her as slightly unwell in the mind. As the story unfolds, Ronnie grows up in this tight knit, comfortable Mormon town. Eventually, she develops a love interest, and while it seems it may progress as both of them become older, however it is snuffed out.While the family is always dealing with the tragedy, the marriage between Ronnies parents begin to show cracks at the seems. They also feel like they are losing touch with Ronnie, and they all say that it is because of the murders. So they turn to their faith to forgive Scott Early, the man who killed the little girls, a mentally ill schizophrenic, who spent three years in a mental hospital. However, Ronnie wants no part of it, as she cannot forgive him.Ronnie then moves out to San Diego, to become an EMT, and coincidentally, Scott Early has a new family on the outskirts of San Diego. She stalks the Early family, and becomes the new nanny to the Early's baby, Juliet. Afraid that Scott will have a lapse and do the same thing to this sweet baby, she decides to do something drastic.
rstanfield on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Young Veronica Swan a mormon from Utah, is haunted by the murder of her two younger sisters. As she grows into an adult, she continuously wrestles with mourning, guilt, and a way to forgive the man who murdered them, a schizophrenic. An interesting read, but it was a lot more about momons than I had originally anticipated.
NanaboosBookEnds on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I enjoyed this book. But for anyone who has or will read it, don't take the information about the LDS church (aka Mormons) as true. I laughed through most of the stuff she included about Mormons. She did some research, but I would hardly call it accurate. And I was even more surprised to see the Library of Congress description list one of it's main subject matters as -Mormons - fiction. It was more about family, faith, tragedy, coming of age, etc. than about Mormons. Way more, especially since the Mormon stuff was mostly untrue.
channing10 More than 1 year ago
I really like it and it really help me with my project. Love this books!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gripping from page one.  Truly a powerful work.  The LDS references did not bother me--the point being that one's faith can compel forgiveness and, potentially, bring a peace that others may not understand.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MyImaginationWorksTooWell More than 1 year ago
So far, this book has been an amazing read! I'm taking it slow as to savor every detail of it! The plot is a heavily scarred idea featuring the murders of Veronica Swan's two younger sisters. I know that many others will feel an odd, yet deep, connection with this book, based on the fact that it's raw and painfully real. Jacquelyn Mitchard does a fantastic job of capturing each and every one of Ronnie's emotions. In an instant, readers feel exactly as Ronnie does, sometimes down to the fluttering heart. With this in mind, mentally prepare yourselves for a captivating experience only to be endured in Cage of Stars.