by Lorna J. Cook
Category: Fiction / General
0 pages; ISBN: 0312321295
Rating: 7/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner
Lorna J. Cook
St. Martin’s, Jan 2005, $12.95, 242 pp.
In Michigan, Malcolm VanderZees married his college sweetheart Esme when she became pregnant. Over the years, they raised four children as he became a professor while she stopped painting. Still this couple has lived the American dream of being the norm with no deviation from the mean as acceptable.
Their oldest child seventeen years old Suzan is a throwback romanticist finding relevance with Thomas Hardy and the Bronte sisters while knowing dad is a mediocre nerd and mom is a loser getting kicks with a phone dude when she is home, which is rare. Fifteen years old Evan lives life through foreign movies until he meets New York transplant Soci. Nine years old Hallie is a recluse who debates philosophical issues with Cupcake her pet rat. Suzan eagerly waits the time she can fly; Evan considers running off to Chicago with Soci; Hallie wants to hide even further; and Malcolm considers escaping to Italy. However, it is five-year-old Aimee, hit by a minivan, who “flees” by reliving her near-death experience everyday.
What makes this insightful look at the typical American family avoid being maudlin and bland (what would you expect from the average family) is the narration of the two teens who see the world through a slightly different lens. Suzan and Evan seem very genuine with their reflections on life, their parents, their siblings, and their town; they see everyone else as pathetic middling. Every member of the VanderZees seeks DEPARTURE from a boring run of the mill world, but none seem able to take the first step outside their security blanket except Aimee. Reminiscent of Supertramps’ Logical Song the audience receives an interesting glimpse at mediocrity.
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