Into the Free is a novel about a girl named Millie growing up in depression era Mississippi. She has a father who beats her mother, a “do nothing Mama” and an elderly neighbor who is her best friend. Her father is a rodeo hero who leaves a swath of violence behind him every time he comes home.
To pass the time, Millie helps her elderly neighbor with the chickens, but most of the time she has nothing to do but sit in a tree and wait for life to happen. Her life seems to happen at a crawl. She longs for love and life and freedom from the depression that seems to strap her mother to the bed. She wants to experience life and the one thing that keeps her hope alive is the gypsy boy who visits every spring while she is growing up.
The gypsies help Millie discover the secrets to her past, but is it too late for her to have a relationship with her father? Will her mother ever get out of bed? How can Millie with so little to go on discover who she is and how to be part of the community or find a family of her own?
I enjoyed getting to know Millie and watch her discover herself. Not everything is answered in this first novel. That’s good, because it means the characters that Julie Cantrell has brought to life will live again in the sequel.