Monday, August 8, 2011

The Gap Year by Sarah Bird

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!

My rating:

* I read an Advance Reading Copy provided by the publisher. Page numbers/quotes in the final copy may be slightly different.

About the author:
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.


  1. This sounds like a nice mother/daughter story. My relationship with Mom became much better when I returned from college - we were able to relate as adults - and now we have a wonderful friendship. This might be a book we could share.

    thanks for the review!

  2. This book sounds wonderful. I like that it's written in a bit different way with some compelling, wonderful prose.

    It certainly sounds like a book you can understand right now. I remember when my sister and I left for college the same year, my poor mom was beside herself trying to figure out what to do with all her free time. But she grewt to really love it!

    Thank you for a terrific review :o)

  3. Zibilee (Heather) loved this book too, and has loaned it to me. I think she knew that I needed this book, even if my daughter is only 13. Mother/daughter relationships are really tough. I sure hope all this angst pays off eventually.

  4. Booksnyc - I think many parents have trouble with that next level... sounds like it was the opposite with your mom. Hope you enjoy this!

    Amy - It sure is... talk about perfect timing! I'm so glad one of my twins will be going to college locally and commuting. No empty nest, at least for now!

    Sandy - I think you would love the smart, witty style of this book. Thought you'd be able to relate to that first quote, too ;-)

  5. I just told Kay that I run a mile from these books. :<) That period was way too painful for me, and even though it turned out very differently than we all expected, it still makes my stomach roil when I think back on it.

  6. It is an interesting experience to move your kids to college and say good-bye . . . hoping what you did all those years will be enough.

    Great teasers!

  7. Good quotes! This sounds like something I might enjoy. Have you read The Yakota Officer's Club by Bird? I thought it was pretty good when I read it a decade or so ago.

  8. Nan - It's a tough time for sure. We just dropped Margaret off at college over the weekend.... lots of tears for me this week :-(

    Georgia Girls - Guess that remains to be seen, but she's on her way...

    Les - I was wondering about Bird's previous novels... will look into The Yakota Officer's Club. Thanks!

  9. That first quote had me laughing out loud. Which was part of the beauty of this book--Bird made me laugh and cry. I'm thinking I'll need to adopt a child when my baby moves out--not that I've lost myself, but a huge part of who I am is a mom and I don't know how not to be that!

  10. Lisa - That's one of the reasons we got our greyhound... to lessen the blow of the empty nest! It turn out one of the twins is going to college locally, so another year reprieve. I'd like to read some of Bird's older books.

  11. I won't have personal experience for at least 18 years, but this one does look good to me.

  12. Stacybuckeye - It's definitely a good one. You'll be surprised at how fast the 18 years will pass...

  13. I'm so glad this book found you at the right time! Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  14. Heathertlc - Definitely a case of the right book at the right time!


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