Sunday, June 8, 2008

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor

12-year-old Addie is waiting. Waiting for normal. But everything about her life at the corner of Freeman’s Bridge Road and Nott Street in the city of Schenectady is more like “abnormal.” She shares a small and dingy yellow trailer with Mommers, her biological mother. Mommers is an “all or nothing” person. Manic or depressed, up all night online or sleeping all day, there or, more and more, not there. Addie’s step-father Dwight is living upstate with "the littles," Addie’s two younger half sisters, and his new girlfriend, Hannah. Mommers and Dwight may be divorced, but “there’ll be no ‘ex’ between me and you, Addie, girl,” Dwight tells Addie. Despite his phone calls and visits to check on her, Addie wonders if she’ll ever feel like part of Dwight’s new family. Ever feel normal.

With a contact she met on the Internet, Mommers starts a “new business,” and office supplies show up at the defunct little trailer by the box load. Mommers is optimistic about the future; Addie is cautiously counting the days until her flute solo in the upcoming school concert. But Mommers’ enthusiasm for her new business (and boss) keeps her away from home night after night. Halloween is a turning point for the worst:

“So this is the smell of Halloween this year, I told myself. No sweets. No trick-or-treating. No candy bars to sort and trade. No fun. No Dwight, no Brynna, no Katie. I looked at the dark trailer. No Mommers.”

Despite her mother's prolonged absences, Addie is able to find sparks of joy in the dark New York winter - in the vocabulary notebook she keeps handy for when she learns new words, with her pet hamster, Piccolo, and with Soula and Elliot - her friends at the gas station across the street. Laughter, music, and friendship make a community of the mini-mart for Addie.

Still, it is with her sisters and step-father where she longs to be. But Addie knows the state believes children belong with blood relatives. And besides, who would look after Mommers?

Leslie Connor (author of Dead on Town Line) has written a remarkable book about the twists and turns of life and the heroes you meet on the way. With well-drawn characters and intensely packed dialogue that allows readers to see the ripples of emotion in our otherwise composed narrator, the novel packs a powerful emotional punch.

1 comment:

joanna said...

Great review, Alison. This is one of my favorites so far.