Night is 15-year-old Kiana (Kia) Scott’s favorite time. It is when she can be anonymous. Swallowed by darkness, she runs to outdistance the voices in her head and the ugly images that are never far away. As bad as the memories she can’t shake are the unanswered questions:
With a Caucasian mom and grandparents, why are the features staring out at her when she looks into the mirror distinctly African American? Who is her birth father, and why will her mother never speak of the past—her own or Kia’s? Is her mixed ethnicity or her mother’s unmarried status the reason her grandfather has always hated her? Or were both factors simply her grandfather’s excuse for abusing a younger Kia? More pertinently, can a damaged life like Kia’s ever hold an identity, hope or a future?
Even years after Kia and her mother have escaped her grandfather’s grasp, Kia can’t escape his legacy in her life. Freerunning, a creative way of running that incorporates gymnastic and acrobatic stunts, helps Kia flee both memories and questions. Thorn, her best friend, runs with her. He has his own problems to overcome, but unlike Kia, Thorn believes God has a plan for everyone, even those who come from hard places. Which simply raises more painful questions. If God is real, what kind of a God sits back and watches little kids get hurt? Why would Kia want to know such a God? Or forgive Him any more than she can forgive her grandfather?
A new pursuit and acquaintance helps distract Kia from her problems. Her high school has a new track coach, Terrence Jones. The good-looking African-American athlete in his early thirties is not only a celebrity reality television star, but a superstar in the world of freerunning. Suddenly track is the most popular sport in the school. When Kia’s best friend Thorn urges her to try out for the track team, Kia agrees in hopes that being part of a team will help her feel worthwhile and give her life meaning.
But just as life is looking good, Kia’s world is rocked to its core when the grandfather she hasn’t seen in almost a decade not only moves back to town, but back into the same house with Kia and her mother. His pretext is that he is dying of cancer and wants to mend relationships with his daughter and granddaughter. But Kia isn’t buying it. Not with the ugly memories every glimpse of her grandfather stirs up.
To make matters worse, Kia may be a natural track star, but if Coach Terrence Jones sees her potential, Jamaican-born assistant coach Cassandra Clark seems to be determined to make life miserable for her. Why does the assistant coach hold such a grudge against her new boss? Even more puzzling, why should that grudge extend to Kia? What is the past connection between the two coaches? Why does Kia get the feeling Coach Clark knows more about Kia’s missing past than Kia knows herself?
Thorn encourages Kia to deal with the past abuse and move on, but she tells him “I’m not a fighter, I’m a runner. All I’ve ever been good at is running. Running from the visions, from the things that haunt me. Running from the things I can’t beat or change.”
Once again Kia turns to freerunning to escape. But this time it is a community outreach Coach Terrence Jones has started to offer kids a safe place for their stunts and practice. Coach Jones recruits Kia and Thorn both to help with the younger boys and girls. For the first time, Kia feels she is heading somewhere in life and doing something positive with her talents. As Coach Jones also shares with Kia the same unwavering faith that Thorn displays, Kia begins to consider for the first time that perhaps there really is a God of love—and that perhaps He really does have a plan for even such a dysfunctional life as Kia’s. Especially as she learns that Coach Terrence too has had to overcome betrayal, pain and grief. In fact, the more Kia learns of Coach Terrence’s story, the more she begins to wonder—especially when she discovers that the two track coaches not only attended high school together, but with Kia’s own mother.
That is, until she discovers that her grandfather has begun loitering around the outreach—and its young children. Nor can she buy that his presence there has anything to do with reestablishing his relationship with his granddaughter. Especially when other and darker secrets come to life—not just about her grandfather, but Coach Terrence, Coach Clark, and even her own mother. Has everything in her new life—including her own fledgling faith—been a lie?
As her new life begins crumbling around her, Kia realizes she can no longer keep running. Worse, if she is unwilling to make a stand, she will not be the only one left with a ruined childhood. But does she have the strength to stand up to her grandfather and the secrets of her own past?
In a heart-stopping showdown, Kia finds the courage not only to confront past abuse, but to lay aside her own fears and pain for the sake of others. Never could she have guessed the astonishing revelations her decision will bring to light. As Kia finds both the answers and identity of which she’s always dreamed, she comes to accept that she may always bear scars. But her life is neither ruined nor without purpose. And the loving God of whom her best friend Thorn and her birth father, Coach Terrence Jones, have testified has not only been there from the beginning, but has a plan for her present and her future. Kia is still a runner, but this time she is running towards tomorrow and all it holds for her.
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