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Waiting for Normal
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Addie lives in a trailer under an elevated train track with her disturbed, neglectful, "all or nothing" mother, who often leaves her alone there for days at a time. Her beloved ex-stepfather does what he can to support them, but her visits with him are few and far between, and only when her erratic mother allows them. But as good as Addie is with coping, and as positive as she tries to be, those visits only remind her of a normalcy she can never have.
Is it any good?
This breathtakingly moving portrait of a neglected child achieves its effects in shades of gray. Addie's mother is not an evil witch and does, in fact, love Addie. Her loving stepfather does his best, but is often inept and doesn't see what his warmhearted visits are doing to Addie. Her friends and teachers all mean well, but none are able to see what is really going on, or to do anything about it. And Addie herself knows that her mother is unable to take care of her, yet does everything she can to hide that fact from those who love her and would protect her if they knew, even going so far, in one heartbreaking scene, as to fill empty food boxes with paper and put them in the cabinets so that it will look like there's plenty of food when her grandfather comes to check on her
Told in Addie's matter-of-fact voice, the story never descends to mawkishness, melodrama, or preachiness. Addie is a delightfully poignant and winning heroine, but the success of a character-centered story such as this one rests not only on the main character, but also on the supporting players, and here the author also excels. Addie's stepfather Dwight, her half-sisters, and the odd couple who run the mini mart across the street are all fully fleshed out and as vivid in the reader's mind as they are in Addie's life. This realistic look at a tough subject hits all the right notes in creating a warmhearted portrait of a child in trouble.
From the Book:
Maybe Mommers and I shouldn't have been surprised; Dwight had told us it was a trailer even before we'd packed our bags. But I had pictured one of those parks—like up on Route 50. I thought trailers were always in trailer parks. I expected a little grass patch out front, daisy-shaped pinwheels stuck into the ground, one of those white shorty fences and a garden gnome.
Dwight crossed traffic and pulled the truck up over the curb. When he stopped, Mommers' head bumped against the window. "What are we doing here?" she asked. I watched Dwight's face for the answer. Dwight is my stepfather. Well, he's really my ex-stepfather since he and Mommers split for good. That was two years ago. (It's best to know right from the beginning that my family is hard to follow—like a road that keeps taking twists and turns.) But Dwight had always told me, there'll be no "ex" between you and me, Addie, girl, and I believed him.