Miles from Ordinary
For 14-year-old Lacey, a sunny summer morning in Peace, Florida, marks a bold new beginning. At least that's what she hopes as she and her mother board the city bus and head downtown to start new jobs. Lacey has helped her mom work up the courage to apply for a job as a checker at the Winn-Dixie grocery store. And even though her mom seems very nervous and even more scattered than usual as she heads to her new job, Lacey is hopeful. Most of all, she's optimistic about her own new job, volunteering at the local public library.
Lacey has always loved the public library, both for the books it contains and because it reminds her of her beloved Aunt Linda, who used to work at the library and who lived with Lacey and her mom until recently. Lacey misses Aunt Linda desperately, and she hopes that working there might somehow bring her aunt back. She is so tired and overwhelmed; her mom's erratic and troubling behavior hasn't been getting much better, and Lacey is often asked to do and see things that no 14-year-old should have to endure. But Lacey keeps telling herself that maybe this new job will make everything okay again: "I said a prayer in my heart for her. That she would be okay. That she would make it. That she would love her job. That she would be her quirky self once again...that who she was would step from the past, like a ghost splitting the skin of a being, and she would be okay again."
But when Lacey's shift is over and she gets back on the bus to meet her mom, she soon realizes that nothing is okay at all. Her mother quit after working less than an hour, and now she can't find her mom anywhere. Accompanied by her refreshingly normal (and also very cute) new friend Aaron, Lacey tries to locate her mother --- and get to the bottom of her own feelings about her family's troubled history and her own future.
Lacey's story, while extreme, is also completely believable, recognizable in particular by any reader who has had a family member tortured by mental illness. Her conflicting but co-existing feelings of love toward her mother, embarrassment, fear, and guilt for wanting to be free are all present and credible in Carol Lynch Williams's novel. Readers will be as moved by Lacey's bravery and resilience as they are saddened and horrified by her situation.
MILES FROM ORDINARY takes place in the course of a single day, but its narrative is enriched --- and Lacey's character intensified --- by the many flashbacks the author uses to complete her story. As Lacey's mind works backward through her mother's heartbreaking decline and her resulting isolation, she must also find a way to move forward into that new beginning she had imagined.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on October 18, 2011