Childhood Revisited

  ramona If you grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, you probably read at least one of the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary. Cleary documents inquisitive, quirky Ramona from the age of four upward, and how her innocent rationales confound and vex her parents, sister, and just about everyone she meets. Cutting her own hair, baking her doll inside a birthday cake, fighting with her sister, starting school – stories every child or parent can relate to with much laughter.

Fast forward a generation. Ramona gives way to Junie B. Jones, a kindergartener of the modern age whose misinterpretations and misguided notions get her into just as much trouble as Ramona, at home and in school. But while Ramona is filled with the sweet innocence of a bygone era, Junie is modern empowered sass. Whether getting into trouble on the schoolbus or with her family or with her nemesis, That May, Junie says aloudjunie what many children and adults often think.

Myself, I’ll take Ramona over Junie B, simply because Junie is a little too fresh for me, but I confess: I love the Junie B. Jones books, and sneak off to read them even though my youngest is now 17. And yes, I would have no problem rereading a Ramona book if I had an hour to kill – I have the whole set. If you love the genre but won’t read a kid’s book, there is hope: if you miss those kinds of stories, of seeing the world through a child’s eyes as they struggle to make sense of the world around them, often hilariously misinterpreting things, fear not! The adult form of those stories exists.

zippyEnter Haven Kimmel, who grew up in the tiny town of Mooreland, Indiana, in the 1970’s (population 300). Kimmel is a real life Ramona Quimby, and she chronicles her life in a book called A Girl Named Zippy. How she sees things, both odd and oh-so-totally familiar (“A Short List of Records My Father Threatened to Break Over my Head If I Played Them One More Time” “A Short List of Things My Father Won Gambling” “The Breakfast Bar at Which No Breakfast Was Ever Eaten.”), will have you laughing out loud where ever you happen to be reading at the time. Her cast of crazy characters, both friends and family, are common to almost every family, whether they admit them or not. Her father works in a factory, her mother lies on the couch watching TV ignoring any and all household chores, and there’s nothing in the house to eat but carrots. Although Kimmel never has clean clothes (people she visits tend to wash her clothes for her when she stops by), only one room has heat, and the house is falling down around them, Kimmel never feels neglected. She hates her Quaker roots and three-times-a-week church, her mother’s best friend has the mouth of a sailor (I can’t help but see Kathy Bates playing her in a movie), and her brother and sister flee home at the first opportunity.couch

In her second book, She Got Up Off the Couch, Kimmel describes her later years when her mother got some gumption, got off the couch, and decided to enroll at Ball State University – though it only made the home conditions worse, if possible. While being on campus with her mother, attending theater, even just listening to her mother’s phone conversations, Kimmel is suddenly thrust into realizing there’s a world beyond Mooreland, and she is never the same again. Things are not always fun and games, and Kimmel starts to become aware of the differences of how she lives versus how other people live (her father’s friend has gold toilets and velvet wallpaper; they have a hole in their wall that goes almost to the outside, and no running water), and begins to notice her parents are never together. Eventually she catches on to the fact her father’s having an affair, but even then Kimmel’s tone is wistful and both painfully accusatory and forgiving at the same time.

Whether you grew up in the 60’s, 70’s, or 90’s, the fact that you grew up at all gives you a common experience shared by everyone else, oftentimes more than you know. If you can’t relate directly to Kimmel, you probably knew someone in your neighborhood just like her. Whether you grew up in Indiana, Oregon, Arizona, or Massachusetts, you will find delight and painful familiarity in Kimmel’s youthful innocence (“She picked out a wig to wear on the special day, too, a style and color she considered “subtle’ and which I thought said ‘Pekingese.’”), while your children laugh knowingly at Junie and Ramona. It is the same story, different audiences.

Linda reads : Wind Chime Point and Sea Glass Island by Sherryl Woods

Wind Chime Point is book two of the Ocean Breeze Trilogy.  It would be helpful to read the first book, Sand Castle Bay, although the author does a wonderful job of tying in book one’s story.

Hardworking, ambitious, and independent Gabriella Castle is facing personal and professional challenges that prove too daunting for her to handle alone.  She retreats to her grandmother’s home in Sand Castle Bay, NC. and the welcoming arms of her family.

Wade Johnson is a cabinet-maker and wood-carver with a tragic and secret past.  He’s been intrigued by Gabriella whenever she’s visited and is happy when she returns to town.  He’s also a friend of Emily’s finance, Boone.

Gabi is having a lot of trouble deciding what to do about her future.  For the first time in her life, she is plagued with doubts and uncertainty.  She finds a friend in Wade and his easy-going style and good listening skills are both helpful and comforting.  She didn’t expect or plan for her feelings for Wade to blossom into love.  Wade knew he had strong feelings for Gabi, but he is unsure if he’s ready to take the next step.

Although this book focuses mainly on Gabi and Wade, the secondary characters play an important part in the story.  Gabi’s sister Emily is busy planning her wedding and her other sister, Samantha is facing her own crisis about her           career.  Grandmother Cora Jane is still playing matchmaker and the sister’s  father, Sam, has an expanded role in this book.

Sea Glass Island is the third and final book of the trilogy.  Samantha has been living in New York City pursuing her dream of being an actress.  But lately, the parts she auditions for are all going to younger actresses.  She goes home to North Carolina for her sister’s wedding and to reflect on what to do with her life.

Ethan Cole is a doctor at the local clinic in town.  He lost a leg while serving in Afghanistan, and his fiance dumped him shortly thereafter.  He’s having a hard time overcoming the hurt caused by his finance.  He doesn’t know that Samantha has had a crush on him since high school, or that her family is relentless on their determination to get them together.

There are several interesting subplots in this book and plot lines from the previous two books are tied up quite nicely.

These are  captivating, realistic, heartwarming romances.   The setting is a place you want to visit and the characters are people you want to know.  This is a character-driven trilogy with witty dialogue, beautifully descriptive scenes, warm and loving family interactions, and sweet love stories.  This trilogy is Ms. Woods best work yet.