Making Up for the Past: A Review of Saving Baby Doe

When 13-year-old Lionel Perez sneaks onto a construction site with his best friend, Anisa, he has no idea that their lives will change forever. Anisa hears what she thinks is a cat trapped inside a portable toilet, but it turns out to be a newborn baby girl. The two try to take the baby home, but are stopped by the police. An ambulance is called, but Lionel cannot accept that he is a hero. If the baby goes to a foster home, he thinks, it will be unloved and mi9780399251603streated, and Lionel knows about losing a parent’s love. His own father abandoned him when he was seven. He believes a real hero would kidnap the baby from the hospital and raise her himself with his mother. Along with kidnapping the girl, Lionel is about to make some other dangerous choices to support her, but to do so, he has to evade two neighborhood elders who seem to follow his every more.

The author of The Trouble with Half a Moon (2011) returns with another story of a young teenager seeking redemption through a bond with a helpless young child and older adults in the community. Lionel is an engaging protagonist, vividly drawn and complex. We understand his hot temper and single-minded effort to get what he wants, which doesn’t contribute to his making the best decisions. At the same time, he is a youngster who cares about the people around him and wants to be a better man than his father was. Vigilante sets her novel in a Brooklyn public housing project, where community elders—particularly piano teacher Miss D and Vietnam veteran Mr. Owen (who have a sweet late-in-life romance going)—offer guidance to the fatherless protagonist and prove that “it takes a village.”

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