The Lauras by Sara Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In the middle of a spring night, 13-year-old Alex’s mother hustles both of them into the car, puts Alex in the back seat with a blanket, and drives away from their home and Alex’s father, with no explanation. All Alex knew was Ma and Dad had been fighting, again, and this time must have been the worst, or Ma would never have left.
The pair spends the next few years on the road, traveling from place to place, small town to small town, more or less in hiding, while Alex’s mother works odd jobs to support them. Now and then Ma talks about her past; now and then they visit places and people Ma had known as she was growing up in foster care. Ma has loose ends to tie up.
Alex has loose ends, too. Mainly, Alex hasn’t decided whether to present as male or female, and so alternates depending on mood and available clothing. While this usually doesn’t cause trouble, Alex occasionally runs into people who don’t understand and want to classify and categorize by gender. Ma is fiercely protective of Alex’s genderqueer identity and won’t stand for any nonsense from jackasses.
Told in the first person from Alex’s perspective, this wandering road trip of self-discovery — for both Alex and Ma — is mesmerizing, beautiful, tender, gruff, and heart-wrenching. Life on the run isn’t easy, but our stalwart nomads make the best of their circumstances, and eventually find themselves a satisfactory state of being.
Thank you to LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program for the opportunity to read this book.
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Four of five stars
Sarah Ivorie Walker is 30 years old and single, which is a shame in 1950 rural Tennessee. Ivorie, as she’s known, stayed home with her elderly parents, taking care of them, and now that her mother has passed on, she’s all alone out there on her little homestead. But she has her garden, and her milk cow, and her job at the local public school to keep her busy. One fine summer day, she notices one of her tomato vines is broken, and something’s been in the peas and green beans. Some durn critter is messing up her vegetable patch. She’s determined to trap it. Sure enough, she does: the critter is a little boy. A speechless, neglected, and severely abused little boy who’s been sneaking down out of the hills at night to eat out of her garden. Ivorie decides to take him in and raise him herself. And suddenly, she’s not only a spinster, but a scandal.
Donna VanLiere tells us the story in alternate chapters, first through Ivorie’s eyes, and then through the eyes of our nameless boy. And it’s a sweet story, but not sentimental. Ivorie’s no nonsense approach to all things permits no truck with sentimentality. Still, that isn’t to say a reader won’t shed a tear or two, especially with the closing paragraphs. A lovely lovely book, perfect to read on a summer’s day, while sitting on the front porch drinking iced tea, watching the neighborhood children play in the yard, and counting one’s blessings.
Many thanks to Goodreads First Reads Program for the opportunity to read this book.