Small as a Mustard Seed is a momentum building, emotional rollercoaster read. Shelli Johnson’s impressive ability to make her main character, Ann Marie, so credible led to my believing that I was reading an autobiography. This is a very well written story of a young girl growing up in a dysfunctional family in the sixties and seventies. With a father suffering from physical and serious emotional injuries as a result of his participation in the Korean War, and a seemingly uncaring mother, Ann Marie and her sister try to cope with life.
While the story explicitly depicts the possible effects on a family of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the author does so without making PTSD the central theme of her book. The family and its flaws make up the setting for the story. The story is about Ann Marie and her struggle to understand. The majority of the novel is set in the years Ann Marie spends growing up with her parents, but the author does a good job of bringing the story back together at a point when she is a lot older.
In Small as a Mustard Seed, Shelli Johnson has written an extremely good story that I highly recommend to any fan of fiction. Put it on your list of “must reads.”
Reviewed by: Bob Doerr (2012)
As a child in 1960's rural Ohio, Ann Marie Adler finds herself caught between her father, Frank, a veteran who survived the war in Korea but with devastating post-traumatic stress, and her mother, Adele, who is blindsided by the mental illness that accompanied him home. In a series of escalating dangerous episodes, Frank confuses reality with soul-searing memories, believing he's still a soldier fighting for his life in battle-torn Korea. During the delusions, Ann Marie and her younger sister, Jolene, become the enemy, which leaves them fearing for their lives. Unable to fully protect her daughters, Adele scrambles to keep order while her husband's threatening and unpredictable outbursts slowly tear the family apart.