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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lost and Found in Space

Americans in Space
Mary E. Mitchell

Thomas Dunne Books, 2009

It’s been two years since high school guidance counselor Kate Cavanaugh lost her young husband, Kyle, and she is still struggling to stop the downward spirals of her two children – and her – into a depression fueled by grief and despair.

Life is a challenge for 36-year-old Kate who counsels a motley group of at-risk students. Two years after finding her young husband dead in bed beside her, Kate’s storybook life has vanished, and she and her two children are still reeling. Her daughter Charlotte, once a sweet girl, has morphed into an angry, tattooed, tongue-studded teen; and Hunter, Kate’s four-year-old, keeps his feelings sealed tight inside an empty ketchup bottle clasped to his heart. Not only does Kate not know where to turn next, a romantic interest causes her guilt and pain and she cannot cope with her conflicting feelings.

Then a tragedy occurs at the high school and directly impacts Kate’s support group of at-risk kids, her daughter, and Kate herself. Suddenly Kate is in dire need of counsel and guidance and she finds she can’t begin to help anyone else until she figures out what to do with her own feelings first. What she does next may be unwise and perhaps dangerous, but at least her impulsive actions jumpstarts her family toward the unfamiliar road to forgiveness, understanding and healing.

Despite the initial premise, this book is not sad nor is it depressing. Yes, there are sad moments as you might expect when dealing with the subject matter, but they are handled with grace and humor. I liked the characters in this book and genuinely wished good things for them – even Charlotte, who is a typical teenage brat but really, who can blame her? Although Kate can be awfully inconsistent with her kids, unsure about her job, and hot and cold with her new beau, she is also caring, self-deprecating, and really doing the best she can. Luckily she has some good friends that give her the kind of advice I would offer to her, if I lived next door. I guess even guidance counselors need therapy sometimes, too. I found this book to be a thoughtful portrayal of a family in crisis with a satisfying and realistic ending.


Also by this author:
Starting Out Sideways (2007)

Other books you may enjoy:

Good Grief by Lolly Winston (2004)
Thirty-six-year-old Sophie Stanton desperately wants to be a good widow-a graceful, composed, Jackie Kennedy kind of widow. Alas, she is more of the Jack Daniels kind. Self-medicating with ice cream for breakfast, breaking down at the supermarket, and showing up to work in her bathrobe and bunny slippers. Soon she's not only lost her husband, but her job, house and waistline. With humor and chutzpah Sophie leaves town, determined to reinvent her life. But starting over has its hurdles; soon she's involved with a thirteen-year-old who has a fascination with fire, and a handsome actor who inspires a range of feelings she can't cope with-yet.

The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay by Beverly Jensen (2010)
An 1916, Idella and Avis Hillock live on the edge of a chilly bluff in New Brunswick--a hardscrabble world of potato farms and lobster traps, rough men, hard work, and baffling beauty. From "Gone," the heartbreaking story of their mother's medical crisis in childbirth, to the darkly comic "Wake," which follows the grown siblings' catastrophic efforts to escort their father, "Wild Bill" Hillock's body to his funeral, the stories of Idella and Avis offer a compelling and wry vision of two remarkable women.

The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg (2005)
Betta Nolan moves to a small town after the death of her husband to try to begin anew. Pursuing a dream of a different kind of life, she is determined to find pleasure in her simply daily routines. Among those who help her in both expected and unexpected ways are the ten-year-old boy next door, three wild women friends from her college days, a twenty-year-old who is struggling to find his place in the world, and a handsome man who is ready for love.

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