Riley has spent her life trying to find herself, or to find peace, after her brother Mick is MIA in Vietnam.
Following Riley over the course of two and a half decades, it is easy to see that the loss of the older brother she idolized and adored has made going on with her own life impossible. To add to her troubles, the boy she falls in love with, Darrell, has also been drafted, and unable to deal with losing another person she cares about, she breaks things off with him.
Riley keeps moving, settling for a time in California, and visiting Vietnam which is the last place her brother lived. She tries drugs and makes friends with other people who are also struggling through life.
One of my favorite parts of The Given World was the letter Riley's mother wrote her explaining how she could allow her child to leave, how losing Mick made it hard for her to go on as well. This letter gave such a better picture into Riley's home life and revealed a lot about her parents, especially her mother.
It was hard to read Riley's story, which seemed self-destructive. She went from one bad decision to the next, yet I also always held out hope for her.
The Given World is a beautifully written story about a woman whose heart has been broken and who tries to find a way to get by in life without the brother she loves. What she eventually discovers is that running away doesn't take away the pain, and you can always go home.