Sunday, March 13, 2011
Miles from Ordinary by Carol Lynch Williams
Thirteen-year-old Lacey wakes to a beautiful summer morning excited to begin her new job at the library, just as her mother is supposed to start work at the grocery store. Lacey hopes that her mother's ghosts have finally been laid to rest; after all, she seems so much better these days, and they really do need the money. But as the hours tick by and memories come flooding back, a day full of hope spins terrifyingly out of control....
“No one can get inside the head and heart of a 13-year-old girl better than Carol Lynch Williams, and I mean no one," said James S. Jacobs, Professor of Children's Literature at Brigham Young University, of her breakout novel, The Chosen One. Now this award-winning YA author brings us an equally gripping story of a girl who loves her mother, but must face the truth of what life with that mother means for both of them.
Miles from Ordinary is the story of thirteen year old Lacey and her mother Angela as they struggle through one day, the day that they both start new jobs. For Lacey it's a welcome relief from caring for her mentally ill mother, a chance to make friends, to feel normal and to reconnect to her Aunt Linda, in the place she used to work, even if she doesn't work there anymore, the public library. For Angela, it's a terrifying ordeal which she is attempting we can only assume because Lacey has talked her into it and on some level she doesn't want to let Lacey down. She's going to be a clerk at the checkout counter in the Winn Dixie, something she's done before, but she's very hesitant, really doubtful that she can do it. Lacey walks her through when she should meet her at the bus stop and goes on to her volunteer job with doubts. She's angry at her mother for not letting her be a normal teen and then chastises herself for being mad at her. She knows her mother isn't right.
Through a day full of flashbacks, we learn that Aunt Linda, Angela's younger sister used to live with them but the two sisters had a huge fight over Angela's mental health and Angela kicked Linda out. She called the police and went so far as to get a restraining order. Lacey knows how to get in touch with her, but feels abandoned and is angry with her, so she doesn't. But she's drawn to the public library where she worked secretly hoping she will stop by and Lacey will be there.
Lacey is a likable teenager. More than that, she's admirable even if she's in over her head. Maybe she doesn't know how sick her mother is. But she's too stubborn for her own good. And her aunt, knowing how sick her sister is, should have checked in with her. But the real fault for the condition of Angela and Lacey's plight, is Angela. She has medication she can take but won't. She was diagnosed as depressed, but it seems to have gone beyond that. I believe, considering what she'd been through, she had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and she just, as the author wrote kept, "...slipping over a steep ledge in slow motion."
The story is told from Lacey's point of view and is set in present day in a small town in Florida. Lacey thinks about her mother constantly thinking how this or that will affect her mother. She looks at the world in a kind of black and white good for momma bad for momma kind of way. She has so much inner conflict and no one to talk to about it. Or help her. This is really her story and everyone else is a secondary character.
The final events are chilling and heart wrenching with Lacey still believing she can take care of her mom. She's loyal to a fault. Even after her mother's frightening words.
This is a fast paced novel, as the events all take place in one day. I can't say whether it's plot driven or character driven-maybe both? They are both tied so closely together and it's kind of like running downhill to the end. You can't turn the pages fast enough and you can't skip a single word. It gains momentum right until the end. Then there's a little time to sit and take a breath and wonder.
I received this ARC from Library Things Early Reviewers Program free of charge. This in no way influenced my review of this novel.
Heather in Sandwich