It's a strange thing, isn't it? We raise our children with the hope (and expectation) that they will one day become independent and self-sufficient. Yet when the time finally comes for them to leave the nest, it's hard to let go. But let go, we must. Our bond evolves as we strive toward a new relationship with our "grown-up" kids.
The Gap Year, by Sarah Bird, chronicles this journey for one mother and daughter in a unique, creative, and ultimately satisfying manner. Cam Lightsey has always had a close relationship with her daughter Aubrey. Years ago, Cam's husband left to join a wacky religious cult and it's been just the two of them ever since. However, tensions rise as Aubrey's scheduled college departure looms. It soon become abundantly clear Aubrey's immediate plans do not include college.
Told in short alternating chapters, Cam and Aubrey's stories unfold one year apart. Set in the present, the bulk of Cam's chapters take place over several days, while Aubrey's narrative takes us back to the beginning of her senior year. This shift provides the reader with gradually unfolding insight and understanding into the characters.
While the structure sets the book apart and makes it much more than just another novel about mother/daughter relationships, Bird's smart, funny, and thought-provoking prose makes The Gap Year a stand-out.
"Forget anthrax. The greatest chemical threat facing our country today is the hormones delivered to our daughters at puberty." ARC p. 26*
"I read once that it takes fourteen miles for an oil tanker to change course. The same change for mothers and daughters must take a nearly equal number of years. But in all those miles and years there does come one precise moment, one discrete point in an infinite vastness, when you start heading in an entirely new direction." ARC p.267
"...I experiment with this feeling of being offstage, of not having the leading role in her life. It hurts. College must have been invented to ease parents' pain, an institution devoted to helping everyone separate at the same time." ARC p.279
On a more personal note, my own daughter begins a three week seminar for incoming first year students today. Yesterday we moved her into the dorm, attended the requisite parent program, shed some tears, and came home to face the empty bedroom. This was definitely a case of the right book at the right time for me!
* I read an Advance Reading Copy provided by the publisher. Page numbers/quotes in the final copy may be slightly different.
Sarah Bird is the author of seven previous novels. She is a columnist for Texas Monthly and has contributed to many other magazines including O, The Oprah Magazine; The New York Times Magazine; Real Simple; and Good Housekeeping. Sarah, the 2010 Johnston Dobie Paisano Fellow, makes her empty nest in Austin, Texas.
The complete tour schedule can be found at TLC Book Tours.