Published February 2010 by Random House Publishing
Source: the Publisher and TLC Book Tours
When Laura and her 15-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, get in a big fight and Liz steals Laura's car and takes off, Laura and her husband go through the usual parental reactions. They contact friends, they contact the police, they question they way they have handled their daughter. And they wait.
Liz's father's way to spend that time is to mow the lawn--twice. Laura decides it's time to tell Liz her own story of life as a young girl in a letter.
When Laura herself was fifteen, she feel in love with the wrong boy, a boy her parents strongly disapproved of, particularly when they found Laura and Tim naked on their living room floor. So off to Catholic boarding school Laura went. As one of the "charity cases" (Laura had to work to subsidize her education), things were not easy for Laura. But a continuing correspondence with Tim helps Laura keep her sanity. Until Tim's enlistment in the Army and time spent in Vietnam begin to have a much deeper impact on both of them.
I was impressed, from the start, by the way Bishop was able to write from a mother's point of view, even to the point where I felt like these were words I might say.
"Well. Things don't always turn out the way we want them to, do they? Sometimes when I'm yelling at you for coming in late, or criticizing your choice of friends, or your taste in clothing, or your apparent indifference to anything having to do with family or school or future, I hear my mother's voice coming from my mouth. My mother's very words even."
Which is not to say, at all, that I feel the same way about my mother that Laura feels about hers. Just that all mothers, I think, feel like the things we are saying to our children are for their own good and are universal. And, maybe, that all of us fear that we are turning into our mothers when we say certain things. Which, of course, means that maybe our moms were right.
Bishop also brings up great points in the book about why some "unfortunate people" seem to resist help and the way two different sides of any conflict look at the conflict in the same way, just from two different perspectives. And Elizabeth Barret Browning's poetry play heavily into the story, which I liked.
I read the book quickly, just a few hours, not only because it's short but because it did draw me into the story. I really wanted to find out what Laura had to tell Liz that she felt was so profound that it might change their relationship. And, when I finished it, my overall impression was that I enjoyed the book. But as I've thought about it, there little, niggling things that bothered me while I was reading it, started to pop to the surface. I could picture a mother sitting down to write a letter to her daughter while her daughter was missing--but not a 100 page plus letter. I found it hard to believe that Laura was so distant from her parents yet raised her daughter to call them Gramps and Mams. I couldn't imagine two teenage kids being so stupid about the first time they had sex as to do it in the middle of the living room and losing track of time. I think I might have liked Laura's story better told in a different way; so much of it felt very true to life as a teenager. But I'm not sure, in the end, if I felt like the lesson Laura was trying to teach Liz was clear.
There's nothing heavy here but, overall, I enjoyed the book and it is one that I will pass along.
To read more about Mr. Bishop and his debut book, check out his web site. To read an excerpt of the book, click here. Thanks to Lisa, and TLC Book Tours, for including me on this tour!
For more opinions about this book, please check out the other stops on the tour:
Tuesday, May 4: Savvy Verse and Wit
Wednesday, May 5: Luxury Reading
Thursday, May 6: Overstuffed
Monday, May 10: Juggling Life
Tuesday, May 11: Suko’s Notebook
Wednesday, May 12: Diary of an Eccentric
Monday, May 17: Books and Movies
Tuesday, May 18: Book Club Classics
Wednesday, May 19: Book Nut
Thursday, May 20: not that you asked
Monday, May 24th: Feminist Review