"Well, Earl's face started to crumple, and then the rest of him
crumpled, too. Janey set by the stove, wailing and clawing at her
head. I tried to think of all the things a grown-up'd say. She's
with God now...She's gone to a better place...We'll meet her on the
other side. They just sounded sour on my tongue. I couldn't even say
'She's at peace,' 'cause when I thought back on how she'd looked--in
that very, very last moment--there waren't a lick of peace in her."
The plucky kids left alone in the world with only their wits to
survive and stay out of the evil grasp of the foster care system is a
mainstay of juvenile literature. Louis Bayard's Lucky Strikes is one
of the best examples of this subgenre that I have encountered in my
reading life. Set in small town Depression America and narrated in
vernacular, it's very hard to put down.
The reader plunges right into the story. "Mama died hard, you
should know that.". The next morning Amelia must get her younger
siblings to help her bury their mom. She tells them they are going to
carry on as a family. She will run the family gas station. Janie
will learn how to cook, sew, and sew. Earl will get ready for college.
The little family faces two major challenges. Predictably the
first comes in the form of a social worker, Miss Wand, who suspects
that there isn't a responsible adult on the premises. Amelia has
cleaned up a hobo who literally fell off a truck and promised him room
and board in exchange for playing the role of her dad. (Her siblings'
father is in prison). Miss Wand holds out for documentation.
An even more dangerous challenge comes in the form of Harley
Blevins, a forerunner of today's 1%. The owner of a chain of Standard
Oil gas stations, he is determined to capture his rival's one
independent station for his petroempire. He'll stop at nothing to
acquire the object of his obsession.
Any child or adult who roots for the underdog and enjoys a
lively tale will find Lucky Strikes a good choice for an autumn read.
On a personal note, the day I woke up at 4:00 reflecting on mortality,
was also the day I had been looking forward to for weeks. I took the
bus to Portland where I met up with Katie and Jacob. We did shopping
including visiting two Goodwills. I got me some mighty fine things
including a musical Dreamsickles snow globe that plays "When You Wish
Upon A Star." We had lunch with Ann (Jacob's mom) whom I felt like I
already knew through all our letters. Then we chilled at the
apartment with my grand cat Archie, short for Archibald.
A great big shout out goes out to Katie, Jacob, Ann, and Archie.
You're simply the best!
Sent from my iPod