Cassanda Maxwell has had a life filled with pain. Her mother died too young, her father is an abusive alcoholic, and she’s a misfit everywhere she goes.
After being shuttled between various foster homes, Cass struggles to find her identity and finds herself caught up with Scott Jones (aka “Sky”) and his group of friends who start a Jesus commune in California. But before long, the group is more interested in pot and sex than they are spiritual growth.
Once again, Cass finds herself trapped in unhappiness—and she longs for escape.
Will Cass find the life and love she craves on a California commune—with the charismatic Sky and his followers? Or can she fulfill her dreams—and find her real future—with her childhood friend Joey?
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.73(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Looking for Cassandra Jane
By Melody Carlson
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2002 Melody Carlson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMy daddy used to say I had the devil in me. My grandma said it was only because I was a highly spirited child, yet as time went on I figured my daddy might've been right after all-especially seeing as how he and the devil were already on a first-name basis anyway. I was fifteen years old before anyone told me that Jesus loved me-and even then I didn't believe it.
I can still recollect my daddy's face reddened by whiskey and rage. "I'm go'n' to beat the devil outta you, Cassandra Jane Maxwell!" he'd bellow in a slushy voice. Then with his usual drunken awkwardness he'd yank off his leather belt and come after me.
Of course he only did this after the empty Jack Daniel's bottle went spinning across our cracked linoleum floor, and that bottle gave me the advantage because it's not that tricky to elude a drunk-especially if you're fast. And I was fast. But even to this day I still sometimes see my daddy's face when I hear a TV evangelist going on and on about the devil and evil and all.
This is not to make it seem that my daddy was a truly wicked man. The fact is, I mostly loved my daddy. And when he was sober he was a fine-looking and well-mannered gentleman. He liked wearing a freshly pressed shirt with a neatly knotted bolo tie and he believed in polishing his shoes. And his dark hair, like his shoes, would gleam in the sunlight, combed through with Brylcreem (just a little dab'll do ya). And when my daddy walked through town he'd hold his shiny head up high, almost like a cocky rooster strutting through the chicken yard, and seemingly oblivious to all those quick side-glances or knowing nods coming from our fellow townsfolk.
Maybe this was his way of making up for all that was wrong in his life, or more likely he was telling himself that he would do better that day, that he wouldn't give in to his weakness again. And like his hair and his shoes, my daddy talked real smooth and slick too, when he wasn't under the influence. He sold top-quality used cars at Masterson Motors on Main Street, and on a good day he could easily best any other salesman on the lot. My grandma said Clarence Maxwell could charm the stripes right off of a snake-and she meant it as a compliment. But his life was full of sorrows. And his escape in those days was always the bottle.
My daddy used to say that I killed my mama. Of course he only said this when he was under the influence, but my best friend, Joey Divers, told me that whiskey never lies. And I suppose in some ways it was true, because if I hadn't been born my mama wouldn't have died. But then I never asked to be born and there were plenty of times when I surely wished that I hadn't been. Although my grandma said that's like wishing you were dead and it's an insult to your Maker.
My mama died when I was only three days old, and years later I overheard my grandma saying that if my daddy hadn't been out drinking he might've taken my poor mama to the hospital before she bled herself to death. But I would've never dreamed of saying that my daddy killed my mama. Truth is, I know firsthand how bad it feels to lug that kind of guilt around with you. I would never wish that upon anyone, no matter how pitifully wicked they were.
Since my daddy was pretty much useless after my mama died, my Aunt Myrtle looked after me some. I guess I was a real fussy baby and I suspect I was fairly trying for poor Aunt Myrtle, but I reckon the reason I was so cantankerous was because my mama was dead. To be honest I don't remember that far back, although I've heard said that hidden somewhere deep in our subconscious we do remember such things. I do, however, remember my Aunt Myrtle looking at me with those pale blue eyes. The corners of her lips might turn up into something of a smile, but her eyes were cold and hard like the surface of the park pond those few times it froze over. And her smile, like that brittle veneer on the icy pond, was deceiving. As kids we always knew that even though the pond looked like it might support your weight, you never could count on it and only a plumb fool would go out beyond the edge. One year an unsuspecting deer wandered out and the ice gave way and the poor, confused animal went right down into the freezing dark depths below. And that's about how I felt around my aunt.
Aunt Myrtle usually came over to our house to take care of me. She always had her hair fixed up and lacquered with Aqua Net hair spray you could smell before she even walked in the door. I think she fancied herself to be a Donna Reed look alike wearing all those shirtwaist dresses and high-heeled shoes, but now that I think about it those outfits don't seem like the best kind of housekeeping clothes. She'd tie one of my dead mama's aprons around her thick middle and do a little cleaning and cooking if it suited her. But mostly she just watched the television (shows like As the World Turns and Search for Tomorrow) or else she just walked around the house like she had a corncob stuck somewhere inside her anatomy. And I knew to stay out of her way.
My earliest memory of Aunt Myrtle was being scolded and pushed away from her long full skirt. My hands were probably sticky or dirty and she was afraid I'd muss her all up, but even when I was squeaky clean she always keptmea good arm's length away. I don't think she was ever real comfortable around kids, and although she did eventually marry, she never bore children of her own. Back when I was little I thought maybe she hated me because I had killed her only sister by being born. But later on I learned that my mama was only her stepsister and no blood relation at all. And as it turned out, my Aunt Myrtle never really liked her much anyway, and I figured that was why she didn't like me either.
Joey Divers told me that his mama told him that my Aunt Myrtle had been in love with my daddy at one time. I couldn't understand this because my Aunt Myrtle seemed like an old woman to me-almost as old as my grandma I thought when I was little. But one day I asked Aunt Myrtle how old she was, and she told me she was almost exactly the same age as my daddy and that they had even gone to school together as kids! The way she said this to me was strange, with those pale blue eyes of hers looking almost dreamlike. It made my skin feel creepy and I wondered if Joey hadn't been right all along.
About that time I became fearful that she might actually be in love with my daddy still, and even though she'd been my mama's stepsister, I didn't for the life of me want Aunt Myrtle to become my stepmother. But perhaps her infatuation for my daddy might explain why she put up with me all that time, since I knew she could hardly stand me. And I remember how she'd go on and on, talking like she had my best interests at heart, but in the next breath she'd be telling me how I was a bad little girl and how I'd never amount to anything. I know she'd heard my daddy say I had the devil in me and naturally she believed him. But for all her hard work and self-sacrifice it never got her anywhere with my daddy. And I must credit him with that. In fact, although I know he was "involved" with a few women here and there, he never actually fell in love or remarried. In his own way I believe he remained true to my mama's memory. And perhaps that was the main part of the reason for his sorrows.
My grandma would've taken care of me more of the time if she could've, but she had her little grocery store to tend to. Her first husband, my mama's daddy, had built that store with his bare hands from scratch just before the Great Depression. It was an old, boxy wooden building not much bigger than a small house, but with a little apartment above. Situated on a corner downtown, its only windows faced the street, reaching from the ceiling clear down to the floor, and it was all shadowy and dark toward the rear. The store had the smell of oldness to it, as if the bygone years of apples and pickles and sliced bologna had somehow soaked right into its wood plank floors. But it wasn't an unpleasant odor, and it always made me feel comfortable and right at home, like it was a part of me and my history. It was usually nice and cool inside, even on a hot summer day.
Grandma said they used to rent out the apartment before my grandpa died, but it was a real blessing for her to have it when she and my mama were left alone and the Depression set down upon them like a hungry, old bear. She said that little one-bedroom apartment gave her and my mama a safe haven and a roof over their heads, and I think those were happy times with just the two of them. I never quite understood why she upped and married Myrtle's daddy just shortly after the Depression ended-just when things were finally looking up for her. And the saddest part about that "blessed union" was the way her second husband just emptied her cash register till, as well as her two bank accounts, and then ran off and left old Myrtle behind. But my grandma was a good woman and believed that the good Lord would see her through these fiery trials, and I never once heard her complain about getting stuck having to raise her stepdaughter.
Sometimes my grandma would tell me stories about my mama, and when I was five years old she gave me a framed photograph to keep as my very own. And I would look into those dark soulful eyes of the black-and-white photograph and think she must've been the most wonderful woman in the whole wide world. Her skin looked as smooth as my grandma's favorite cream pitcher, and her hair was thick and dark and curly. And even though her dress is all out of style with those big, puffy shoulders, and no one ever wears their hair like that anymore, I know with a certainty in my soul that my mama would still be a knockout if she suddenly appeared on the street today. I used to think I'd grow up to look just like her. But like so many other dreams, it hasn't really come true.
My grandma said that my mama's daddy died when Mama was just a little girl, and that Mama never really got over losing him. It seemed to comfort Grandma that at least the two of them were up there in heaven together now.
However, I found no consolation in this. I'd have much preferred to have her down here on earth with me, because I'm pretty sure my mama and I would have gotten along real well. Naturally I came to this conclusion from looking at her photograph. I'd pretend to have these long, wonderful conversations with her, and she always said really intelligent things (like she'd been around some to know about the world instead of just growing up in Brookdale where everyone is pretty average and normal).
And since she was sort of exotic looking, I liked to imagine she'd been a princess from the Far East, kidnapped at birth and sold to my grandparents because she was so beautiful. She was sure lots prettier than old Aunt Myrtle. I suppose that's why my daddy liked my mama better. My grandma told me I resembled her, but I still can't see it. When I was little I'd climb up onto the bathroom sink and look into the murky mirror in front of our medicine cabinet, but all I saw was a pale, pinched face with two dark holes for eyes and a mop of black hair sticking out all over. My grandma said the black hair and dark eyes came from my mama's daddy. He was full-blooded Cherokee, which makes me one-quarter. The first time I saw an old photo of my mama's daddy, I was sadly disheartened. He didn't have long braids or beads or feathers or anything that looked the least bit like a real, true Indian. Instead he had on an old-fashioned soldier's uniform. My grandma said that was because he'd been in the army and fought in World War I a long, long time ago. I thought it would've been much more exciting if he had fought against Colonel Custer at the Little Big Horn, and I even told Joey Divers that he had. And Joey actually believed me-until he told his mama, that is, and of course she set him straight.
Joey then pointed out that I was a liar, and I didn't argue with him on that account, but in my defense I did tell him that I had what my grandma called a very fertile imagination. Now I wasn't exactly sure what that meant just then, and neither was Joey (although he did look it up later) but it seemed to smooth things over just fine. And Joey forgave me, which wasn't surprising, because I was, in fact, the only friend he had.
Joey Divers was what my grandma called "a poor lame duck." He had suffered from polio when he was just a baby and consequently had a useless left leg and was forced to wear a stainless steel brace connected to an ugly black shoe. And therefore he couldn't run and play with the other boys, and sometimes they even teased him about it. But not when I was around. That's because I was never afraid of them. In fact, I don't think I was afraid of hardly anything-except for my daddy, that is, but only when he was drunk. Anyway I would stand right up to those stupid boys, fists doubled, eyes squinted up real mean, and I would tell them that I was one-quarter Cherokee Indian and that my grandpa had whupped Colonel Custer at Little Big Horn, and that I could beat up every single one of them!-one at a time, of course. Fortunately they never took me on. I suspect they thought they might get in trouble for fighting with a girl, especially when the fight was due to the fact that they'd been picking on a little lame boy. And I guess I was mostly relieved that they didn't want to fight with me. Although I did get a reputation for being pretty tough and, I suppose, pretty weird as well.
That reputation helped me to get through a lot of hard times. After all, it wasn't easy having a drunk for a father in a small town like Brookdale where everyone knows everything about everybody. And besides that, sometimes being tough is all a girl's got anyway.
Excerpted from Looking for Cassandra Jane by Melody Carlson Copyright © 2002 by Melody Carlson. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Looking for Cassandra Jane by Carlson is an emotional roller coaster. She tells the life story of Cassandra. In the book Cassandra (Cass) tells about her emotions going from a some what "normal" life of how she grew up and why she had to move to many homes. The story is goes from one exciting thing to another very fast. Cass's life story is something I never want to do or be apart of. All of Cass's struggles and accomplishments make the story go fast and have a roller coaster feeling. Carlson writes about real life conflicts and how it's possible to overcome them. The way she writes is like the Cass is telling her life story in a journal but without the dates of a real journal. In the book Cass will ask herself a question and the question is mainly for the reader to think. The book made me think about my life and how I am living for God. I enjoyed reading this book. It was a fast read and always kept me on my toes. This book touched my heart and made me feel like I was in the book. Carlson did a wonderful and exciting job of writing the book for a young girl.
Melody Carlson got me quick and deep into Cassandra's thoughts and her rough and tumble faith journey of survival. It was hard to pull away from this book, so I didn't. Cassandra's first person account tends toward self-pity at times but in a true-to-life type of way. A bunch of kids make stupid mistakes and learn that doesn't weaken God's power. LOOKING through Cassandra's troubled eyes paints a full landscape of developed characters in an upside down world.
This book hit very close to home for me, and I was able to identify with the character of Cassandra. I too was raised in an abusive alcoholic family, was a misfit in school, and had religion issues. Aside from the personal aspect of my loving this book, the book itself is wonderfully written and Melody Carlson (the Author) did an excellent job of 'becomming' Cassandra. You will definetly miss Cassandra when you are finished reading the book. She is the kind of character that becomes so real and personal, that she stays with you for a long time. Like an old friend!
Great story. Melody Carlson is one fine storyteller.
This book shows how easy it is to get sucked in.Thank you Jesus for the cross!
This was not her typical type of book. usually there is not sex or violence but that was not the case in this one. It was actually a good story but I struggled to get thru it.
Wow, this book is great! you can feel this girls joy, hope, and pain. When I picked it up I thought it would be really churchy and dull. But it had the perefect combination. Non-Christain and Christain peolpe should read it because they will love it!