Monday, February 6, 2012

Greetings from Nowhere by Barbara O'Connor

Book Jacket

Aggie isn't expecting visitors at the Sleepy Time Motel in the Great Smokey Mountains.  Since Harold died, she is all alone with her cat, Ugly, and keeping up with the bills and repairs has become next to impossible.  The pool is empty, the garden is overgrown, and not a soul has come to stay in nearly three months.  When she reluctantly places a For Sale ad in the newspaper, Aggie doesn't know that Kirby and his mom will need a room when their car breaks down on the way to Kirby's new reform school.  Or that Loretta and her parents will arrive in her dad's plumbing company van on a trip meant to honor the memory of Loretta's birth mother.  Or that Clyde Dover will answer the For Sale ad in such a hurry and move in with his daughter, Willow, looking for a brand-new life to replace the one that was factured when Willow's mom left.  Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that Aggie and her guests find just the friends they need at the shabby motel in the middle of nowhere.

In Barbara O'Connor's warmhearted novel, a cast of unforgettable characters learn that hope is sometimes discovered in the most unlikely places.


The alternating-narrator format has to be done extremely well in order to interest me, and unfortunately, Greetings from Nowhere didn't do it.  I think the book would have been much better if the whole thing was told from Aggie's point of view--we could have seen the kids through her eyes, watch her influence them and react to them.  And anyway, Aggie was the only character to really become real to me.  Her pain at losing her long-time husband was vibrant and hard to read about.

As for the others?  Kirby was supposed to be this horrible kid, but because the only evidence we saw of that (stealing a candy bar from a gas station) was childish, I never believed it.  Because we were in his head, we knew he just wanted to be valued and loved.  I couldn't for a moment believe he deserved to go to a reform school.

Loretta was sweet and peppy, dealing with an unexpected emotional event.  Willow was sad and depressed, dealing with an unexpected emotional event.  In the space of a few days, they become best friends!  Who will keep in contact despite living hours away from each other and only staying that the same motel together!  Whaaat?  That doesn't happen.

The crux of the book relies on the fact that we believe these four people have made a huge and enduring impact on each other.  I didn't see that.  Maybe Willow and Aggie pass that test, but no one else.  I just didn't care that these characters interacted and talked to each other, and I certainly didn't believe it mattered.  Except for Aggie.  She was awesome.

Two out of five pig latin phrases.

Release Date: March 2008
Reading Level: Grade 5+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: CAUDILL

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