FOR THE LOVE OF BIG ORANGE
Leta Gail Doerr
Summary: Passed from home to home within a broken foster-care system, young Lacie Joe finally found refuge in Sagebrush, Kentucky with Judge and Stella Rudy until a suspicious accident forced Lacie Joe to flee.
Now, five years later, Lacie Joe receives word that Judge is dying.
Lacie speeds back toward Sagebrush in Big Orange, her old pick-up truck, unsure which will prove harder: beating back the demons that drove her from Sagebrush the first time, or facing Jay Hayworth, the town’s super-star whose love she can’t forget.
In and out of foster homes until the age of 12, Lacie Joe Jensen finally finds her place with Judge and Stella Rudy deep in Bluegrass Country in the dying town of Sagebrush. Lacie Joe finds happiness and security in the arms of her new family until the day she’s falsely accused of causing a devastating fire. Her back against the wall, she does what she learned to survive in the foster care system, she runs, leaving behind her family and her true love, Jay, who was not just her lover but her best friend.
Five years later, we catch up with Lacie Joe, all grown up. She’s put herself through college and is working as a social worker in Lexington, Kentucky when she’s pulled back to Sagebrush to care for her adoptive father, Judge, who has fallen ill. Returning home she’s forced to confront her past, and more importantly, her future.
For the Love of Big Orange is the first in the Bluegrass series by author Leta Gail Doerr. Doerr effortlessly brings to life a young woman who is a textbook example of the foster care system. As she tells Lacie Joe’s story, Doerr showcases the trials that our forgotten children go through once they become wards of the state. The research into the foster care system is well done and there are poignant moments throughout the book detailing the heart wrenching experiences of foster care children.
There is a lot going on in this book. Lacie Joe is coping with Judge’s illness, the anxiety of returning to her childhood home, and reconnecting with Jay who is looking for answers to why Lacie Joe left him without a word. In addition the counselling program she developed for foster children that age out of the system is on the verge of losing its funding and one of the program’s participants has gotten into trouble and ends up in Sagebrush with Lacie Joe, adding to an already stressful situation. If all of that wasn’t enough to send Lacie Joe off to the crazy house, she’s determined to help out the man whose barn she supposedly burned down five years ago.
Doerr does an impressive job of tying these things together into one story when it easily could have been a confusing jumble of “what the heck is going on?” Unfortunately, with all the moving parts and only so many pages, there isn’t much time for rich character development, which is disappointing as the characters are likable and worth getting to know better. Though Lacie Joe and her crew do encounter one rather large hurdle, most of the conflict resolves itself rather easily with little challenge. This leads to a story that doesn’t quite reach its potential, never getting the reader to that “edge of your seat” conflict stage. Still, I found that For Love of Big Orange is a nice start to Doerr’s Bluegrass series.