Falling Back to One

Falling Back to One, by Randy Mason, is an eye-opening examination of the juvenile detention system and of authority figures who have their own unhealthy issues. It is a well-written and compelling narrative, but for this reader, seemed to move too slowly until the final chapters. Set amid the social changes of the seventies, is the relationship between a troubled cop and a severely damaged child.

Frustrated with the legal and judicial system, James Baker dropped out of law school to become a police officer. Detective Sargent Jim Baker has anger management issues, is again frustrated with the system, and is at risk of losing his career. His only chance to redeem himself is to become the legal guardian of Micki Reilly, a brilliant and talented, but also severely psychologically damaged young woman being physically and sexually abused at a juvenile detention home for girls.
 
The first two-thirds of the book is about Micki’s repeatedly defying Jim, or not trusting him enough to explain why she did or did not do something. Of course, rehabilitating someone as severely damaged as Micki is always two steps forward and one step back, over and over again. Juxtaposed with her behavior is Jim’s repeatedly handling this by backhanding her or throwing her against a wall. Micki and Jim need each other, but refuse to acknowledge it. It was not difficult to realize that Micki was a victim of kiddie porn and physical abuse, but Jim was clueless.

Enrolled in high school, and given a less-than-minimum-wage job, Micki excels at both, but has not learned to trust; she hates Jim and his physical abuse of her. Jim, meanwhile, is simmering with anger at Micki, and devastated by the broken relationship with his would-be finance, Cynthia, which he blames on having to work with Micki. Despair rules the day for both Jim and Micki. It takes a near tragedy to turn things around for both.

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