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Reviewed by Gabriella Harrison for Readers' Favorite
In 1925, Rita Reilly was born to a middle-class Irish family and grew up in a sheltered home with lots of love. Her family is well-off financially, owning a booming grocery and newsagent store with their living quarters above. When her family travels to Wicklow for Mrs. Reilly’s mother’s funeral, they leave Rita behind, with much hesitation, after she successfully convinces them that she can manage the store until they return. Initially, everything appears to be going smoothly. Then, one night, everything changes. The Reclusive Life of Rita Reilly by Robert E. Kearns narrates the drastic change that occurs in Rita’s life at the age of fourteen, brought on by one tragic night. Will the new world Rita finds herself navigating drown her?
I don’t believe it’s possible to read this book without being moved by the story. Robert E. Kearns does a great job of humanizing Rita through her thoughts and how she processes the sudden and huge change in her life and family. The reactions she gets from people, even her family, and the stigmatization she faces are also expertly captured. People tend to treat abuse victims like they should be ashamed and condemned, as if they are the offenders, often worsening the agony they are already contending with. I like the attention given to this societal issue in this book. Due to how well-written The Reclusive Life of Rita Reilly is, it is easy to forget that it is a fictional story and almost believe the personal life of a family that once existed is being discussed.