Monday, September 23, 2013

Summer of the Gypsy Moths

Finished Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker. Stella's mother is flaky and unreliable, and currently traveling around the country trying to find herself. Stella is sent to live with her Great Aunt Louise on Cape Cod. Louise, worrying that Stella will be lonely, takes in a foster child, Angel, the same age as Stella. Louise runs a small cottage colony during the summer and she plans to have both girls help her with the weekly preparation of the cottages for each new group of visitors. What she doesn't plan is to die, suddenly, in her recliner.

Stella is a practical, hopeful girl who had to be the grown up when she lived with her mother. She cooked, cleaned and paid the bills. She is used to being resourceful. Angel is an orphan waiting for her Aunt to have a job and a place to live in order to go and live with her. Angel is angry and resentful person who is ready to run off at the slightest sign of trouble. Both girls fear that they will be tossed back into the foster care program if anyone finds out that Louise has died. So beings a challenging charade of keeping up appearances and surviving.

I felt a little uncomfortable with some of the things that happened in this book. It's not that they were bad. I just felt unsettled thinking about eleven year-olds having to grapple with the problems that Stella and Angel try to face on their own. However, the two of them grown a lot individually and the resolution of the story is positive.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The House on Oyster Creek

Finished The House on Oyster Creek by Heidi Jon Schmidt. This was one of my last buys from Borders before they closed forever. I don't know what took me so long to pick it up. It's a good, deep read with complex, original characters who really stick with you. It's also set on Cape Cod. An added bonus.

Charlotte is married to Henry, a much older, intellectual recluse, habitually holed up in their NYC apartment. He's grumpy, easily irritated, and so intensely immersed in his work that much of the stream of daily life passes by unnoticed by him. They have a four year old daughter who both confounds and charms Henry. Charlotte has grown used to their unconventional, lonely life together. When Henry's father dies and leaves him his house in Wellfleet, MA, Charlotte decides they should occupy the house and a new life, hopefully giving their daughter Fiona a more balanced childhood. In order to afford this new seaside existence they sell a portion of the land that comes with the house, unknowingly placing the local oystermen's livelihood in jeopardy. Most of the locals snub and ignore Charlotte as a transplant, a "washashore." Except for Daryl, an oysterman and builder who is trying to reconstruct his own life. Enter friendship, suspicion, sexual tension and a satisfyingly original plot. This was an excellent read.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Dry Grass of August

Finished The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew. Jubie is thirteen years old in the summer of 1954. Her mother drives her, her three siblings, and their black maid Mary, from North Carolina to Florida for a family vacation. Jubie's mother takes them to visit her brother, Uncle Taylor. Uncle Taylor is warm, kind and caring. His home becomes a refuge for Jubie's mom, suffering from the heartbreak of her failed marriage, and for Jubie, suffering the literal scars from the latest beating she received from her father. Jubie's mother is distracted, distant and unsympathetic. It is Mary, their maid, who Jubie and her younger siblings turn to for comfort and reassurance.

As they travel through Georgia, Jubie immediately notices differences in the deep south, and not just in the landscape. The loud and blatant signs of segregation startle her. The tragic and violent events that take place when they are traveling only serve to reinforce her idea that adults are out of control and not to be trusted. Jubie takes matters into her own hands to do what she thinks is right. She is brave and valiant. Another pretty raw coming-of-age story. I couldn't put it down.