From Publishers Weekly
In this heartfelt if familiar coming-of-age novel set in smalltown Shelby, Iowa, in 1975, Pietrzyk (Pears on a Willow Tree) chronicles a year in the life of 15-year-old Alice Martin after her mother's suicide. "Once you get through this first year, you're fine," the high school principal promises her, reading from a manual. But Alice isn't so sure. Three days after her mother's death, as Alice tries to fill her place by preparing Sunday morning pancakes, her mother speaks to her, providing advice on cooking, makeup and driving, but rarely answering the questions Alice really wants answered: Who is my father? What happened to him? How could you leave me? All Alice and her older brother, Will, know is what their great-aunt Aggy tells them: their mother moved away at age 17 and came back pregnant, with a baby in her arms. Over the course of the year, Alice uncovers secrets, unravels mysteries and finds that nothing and no one are what they seem. Her baseball-star brother runs away to see the Red Sox, Alice herself dallies with the school's bad boy and Pietrzyk allows the reader hints of why Alice's mother might have killed herself. Eccentric mothers and long-suffering daughters are a dime a dozen in recent fiction, but Pietrzyk paints a rich picture of life in rural Iowa, from summer jobs detassling corn to the suffocating force of conformity. As one Shelby housewife advises Alice, "Fitting in is so important. Everything is simpler that way."
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Three days after her mother commits suicide, 15-year-old Alice begins to hear her voice. Giving Alice advice on everything from how to make pancakes to how to apply eyeliner, her mother also imparts some surprising information about her past--how she met Alice's father and why she left him. Alice pumps her eccentric, distracted aunt Aggy for more information and cross-examines her older brother about their absent father, struggling to integrate what she learns. She begins an exciting new relationship with bad boy Joe Fry, the only person who is unafraid to speak openly and honestly about her loss. Pietrzyk's sprawling second novel, following Pears on a Willow Tree
(1998), gets a few things right, especially small-town teen girls in the seventies and their obsession with makeup, Ouija boards, and boys. Unfortunately, her mother's voice quickly comes to seem like an obvious and labored plot device. Still, there's humor here and a likable protagonist in Alice, who is not afraid to look for answers to some of life's biggest questions. Joanne WilkinsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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