So, just to start off with something that is TOTALLY not the point – how beautiful is that cover? I mean, I’m a bonafide country girl at heart, and something about those dry twigs, dead grass, and blue/purple flowers make me think of that line from A Color Purple (“I think God get’s pissed off when people walk past the color purple and don’t notice”, or something to that effect). But not only is this book beautiful. It’s also a book that has brought me out of a KILLER READING SLUMP that, if I’m being honest, has been going on for the better part of a year now.
It’s also a book that has made me feel SO. MANY. FEELINGS. All the feelings, indeed. Leila Meacham has given a cast of characters that from the first moment are clearly on the road to intense and emotional drama. When Catherine Ann “Cathy” Benson’s parents die, she is sent from California to the Texas panhandle to live with her grandmother Emma. Emma’s best friend Mabel is the aunt and make-shift mother of two boys, her nephew Trey “TD” and his best friend John. When Mabel asks TD and John to look after Cathy when she arrives, to shephard her through the first few weeks of school, neither boys want to. Because she’s a girl and, you know, duh. But then she shows up and from the moment TD sees her, he’s in love. And, without telling anyone, so is John. SET UP LOVE TRIANGLE, ALREADY, WITH OVER 300 PAGES TO GO!!!!
Needless to say, this is not a set up that is bound to end in puppies and rainbows and all of the other wonderful Nora Ephron-y things. It’s a set up on the HeartBreak train bound for Regret and Life Upset station. But the writing moves forward in such a way that, although sometimes month or year-long gaps will occur between chapters, I see these characters growing and progressing and never once so far has it been that jarring effect that can sometimes come with time gaps. And she’s given us characters to love. The relationship she has set up between these three children who are all, in one way or another, orphans, creates an emotional soil in which the reader is able to explore issues like love, friendship, compassion, dependence, morality, and loyalty. It sounds like a lot, but it doesn’t feel weighty when you’re reading it. It is, in essence, just the kind of book I need right now – something serious and “thinky” enough to keep my mind off impending wedding business, while still funny enough and with endearingly realistic enough characters that the pages flow along at a steady pace. I’m only about 100 pages in, but so far – I’m hooked.
Trey stood stock still on the sidewalk. As he was hidden by the truck, she had not seen him. A feeling he’d never known before took command of him., He felt unable to move, as if he’d been captured in the beam of a spaceship. He could not feel the cold and wind. His hands and feet did not exist. He felt only the shock of having glimpsed an angel drop to earth, then disappear, the most beautiful creature he’d ever seen. Slowly, when he could get his feet to obey, he turned homeward, the snow like magic dust beneath his boots. He would keep his brief glance of Catherine Ann Benson to himself, a secret he would not share even with John, until tomorrow morning when he would introduce himself to her and become her protector for life.
It didn’t take them long for them to notice she was smart. She finished tests before everyone else and read library books when she wasn’t working, and the teachers called on her for answers when nobody else knew them and read her themes before the class as an example of how they should be written. The teachers praised the neatness of her penmanship while she burned with embarrassment under her classmates sidelong gazes, but not enough to make herself one of them by doing sloppy work.
All human beings were subject to falling below others’ expectations, and Trey was of the particular bent that, once betrayed, there would be no rescuing of the ties that once bound.
Yes, almost since that first day in Miss Whitby’s homeroom, she’d felt linked to Trey. Not tethered, but connected. It was as if, no matter where she went, with whom, or what she did, she was the shore and he was the ocean lying at low tide, but always in sight. Why Trey and not John she didn’t know. John was a dream, and if she were pressed, she’d have to say she admired and respected him more than Trey…but there was an undeniable chemistry between her and Trey, that had always been there, quiet and untapped, and lately when she’d catch him watching her from under hooded lids her skin would tingle and she’d feel as if the air has been sucked from her lungs. In those moments, she sensed the ocean stir, move closer to land, and that feeling, too, made her go warm all over.
‘Catherine Ann…,’ he murmered, over and over like a prayer as he held and caressed her, and his body had felt so right, so perfect, next to hers that she’d hardly nooticed the prick of pain the moment the ocean had surged to the shore and sand and sea became one. It had been so wonderful that afterwards she’d been astonished – horrified – to feel wetness on her cheek and had turned in his arms to see tears on his face.
‘Trey!’ she’d exclaimed, her heart seizing. ‘What’s the matter?’
‘Nothing,’ he said, clutching her fiercely to him, ‘Nothing is the matter. It’s just that…I don’t feel like an orphan anymore.’ (COMMENCE FEELING ALL THE FEELINGS!!!!)