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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-05-02
- Reviewer: Staff
Bird (How Perfect Is That) takes aim at the late-breaking angst of soon-to-be empty-nester Cam Lightsey in her sharp latest. As a lactation consultant, Cam guides new women through their first uncertain days of motherhood, and though single mom Cam (her husband ran off years ago to join a cult) has always been confident in her relationship with her own daughter, Aubrey, a clarinetist in the high school marching band, their bond sours in Aubrey's senior year when Aubrey ditches the band for Tyler Moldenhauer, the quarterback who rescues her from a bout with heatstroke. Two days before Aubrey is due to leave for college, she goes AWOL, and Cam has to face the possibility that all the hopes and dreams she had for Aubrey might not be realized. Told from both Cam's and Aubrey's perspectives, the narrative teases out the ever-deepening mysteries of parents and children as they grow up and apart. Bird's breezy style and spot-on observations of contemporary family life give this headlong story a fizzy energy that carries through to the unexpected conclusion. (July)
A must-read mother-daughter story
Sarah Bird’s latest novel, The Gap Year, is a must-read for anyone who loves mother-daughter stories. Cam Lightsey, a lactation consultant in the homogenous world of Texan suburbia, is attempting to prepare her daughter Aubrey for the next step after high school. The pushing-from-the-nest does not exactly go as planned, which Bird reveals through two simultaneously unfolding storylines. The first, told from Cam’s perspective, details her mounting frustration with her daughter and her growing suspicion that Aubrey has no intention of attending college at all. The second, told from Aubrey’s perspective a year earlier, attempts to explain her own seemingly cryptic actions in the present day. Like many daughters, Aubrey is both a great deal like her mother and anxious to rebel against everything her mother believes in.
In the absence of a father figure (Martin left home 16 years ago to embrace leadership in a bizarre religious sect), Cam and Aubrey have become incredibly close. Cam can read Aubrey like a book, a quality Aubrey relies upon and resents in equal measures. Meanwhile Aubrey can sling insults at Cam so personal the reader may find herself wincing. In short, Bird has done a remarkable job of creating one very specific mother-daughter pair and a dynamic that will feel familiar to many readers.
It becomes nearly impossible to put The Gap Year down once broiling tensions come to a nice simmer. In plot one, Cam vacillates between strong-arming her daughter into packing and realizing how outside the loop she really is. In plot two, Aubrey resumes communication with her long-lost dad and falls for exactly the kind of guy she knows her mother wouldn’t understand: a football jock.
I will say nothing of the conclusion, except that Bird knew what she was doing the whole time. As Cam and Aubrey learn to see each other in different lights, readers might reflect on their own relationships with their mothers, especially during the difficult late-teenage years, and decide to dial up Mom to offer some belated gratitude.