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August 1, 2011 / Angela Sylvia

What I’m Reading: Waiting for Normal, King of the Mild Frontier

This week I did some speed reading through a couple of books.

First was Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor, one of the gift books from Tony. This is a middle-grade novel about a 12-year-old girl, Addie, who lives in a trailer with her jobless, bi-polar, priority-challenged mother. Her mother and step-father, Dwight, have recently gotten a divorce, separating Addie from her younger half-sisters. Addie finds herself worrying about a number of things, like the flute she accidentally stole when she suddenly moved and changed schools, not having a “love of learning” since reading comes hard to her, and how many days her mother will disappear for this time. I found myself very stressed out for this girl as she struggles to keep everyone from knowing that things are wrong, all the time wishing she could just have a normal life. The anxiousness is part of what kept me from putting down the book for two days but the language also kept me hooked. Waiting for Normal is almost 300 pages, but I didn’t feel like I was reading something long because of the fun, simple way Connor tells the story. Take this part, as Addie watches her sisters deal with their mom after she has messed up, again:

“It’s just a sundae.” Brynna dropped her head, started messing with her napkin again. Her fudge sundae puddled around the spoon in the dish.

“You gonna finish? It looks like soup.” Mommers smiled. But Brynna wouldn’t look up. She just kept twisting that napkin.

“We seed Christmas lights,” Katie piped.

“Did you now? Any snowmen? Any reindeer?” Mommers asked.

And so it went for the rest of the night. Katie kept everything light and sweet. But I wondered what would happen when she grew up–like Brynna. We’d be this whole family of napkin twisters.

A “whole family of napkin twisters.” A simple statement, but it sums it all up.

I’ve also read most of King of the Mild Frontier, a memoir by Chris Crutcher, my Lesley mentor from last semester. Jumping around through his own timeline, Crutcher talks about a number of events that happened through his childhood and adolescence. While some parts of the story are sad, like the day his father died, it’s mostly a really hilarious book, even the painful bits – like being whammed in the mouth by a baseball bat. My life was a little less insane than his seems to have been, but reading this book is making me think that, maybe I could write a memoir someday.

After I finish up this book I’ll be starting in on The Handmaid’s Tale and Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norrell for MFA reading. And, at some point, I have got to catch up on all the A Song of Ice and Fire books so I can read A Dance with Dragons – maybe when it’s in paperback, at this rate.

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