A Woman Named Damaris by Janette Oke
Damaris is young, fourteen, but she’s already a grown up in a lot of ways. She helps her mother take care of her father, daily. Damaris’ father drinks, a lot. If there is any money, it’s gone before anyone knows it. The man comes home and yells and breaks things. He demands coffee only for himself. He gets violent at times.
Damaris’ mother tells her that she could pass for seventeen and a lot of girls are on their own at seventeen. One day Damaris’ mother gives her a pocket watch and a brooch. A day soon after that, Damaris’ mother suggests that she go and have a wade in the creek. This is Damaris’ mother’s way of telling her that she should go. Damaris packs her few possessions and sets off into the wilderness alone.
She leaves the roads for open land and eventually follows some train tracks into a town. She’s heard of a wagon train going on further west and tries to find passage on it. She finds a position with a family that has lots of kids. The work is exhausting, but Damaris manages. The captain of the wagon train is very nice to Damaris and even writes her a letter of recommendation. Damaris marvels at the fact that so many men around camp don’t seem to be drunk, nor are they spending all their money on alcohol.
Damaris eventually makes it to a small town where she manages to get three part-time jobs with three different women. Each of the women encourage Damaris in one way or the other. One woman in particular helps Damaris find some self-worth. Damaris’ mother always told her that her name came from the Bible, but the family didn’t have a Bible. The woman helps Damaris look for her name and they find it, but Damaris is a bit disappointed; there isn’t a lot to say about Damaris in the Bible.
Meanwhile, Damaris develops a friendship with a man named Gil and helps a family of children in need. Damaris finds a way to forgive her family and she also finds a way to see that not all men are the same.
What I liked
This has always been one of my favorite Janette Oke books. I just like how determined Damaris is. She goes off on her own and she finds some faith in life, in God, and in herself. I think I probably identified with Damaris when I was younger. I didn’t have the greatest home life and wanted nothing more than to get away from it. I liked how Damaris struck off on her own and found a way to make things work. She also gained herself some faith. I’m not overly religious, but I do like the idea of people finding faith in something.
What I didn’t like
The last time I read this book was before I was married to my ex and this time when I read it I wasn’t married to him anymore. I never had to worry about my ex abusing substances, alcohol or drugs, but the emotional part of it was very difficult. Some of the moments in this book made me cringe a little. When Damaris practically has an anxiety attack because she encounters a drunk man, I get it. Sometimes there are situations that you would like to be strong in, but because you’re traumatized you can’t.
I identify with Damaris yet again. Before I identified with her for wanting to get away from home and now I identify with her because she escaped a traumatizing situation.
Damaris is one determined woman.
Do books change meaning for you when you read them during different phases of your life?
If there has been a long gap between reads of a book, does the original interpretation of the book still apply to your life?