Kansas author Moriarty follows The Center of Everything with a second thoughtful book, The Rest of Her Life. When high school senior Kara accidentally hits and kills a fellow high school student in her car she changes the course of not only her own life, but of family, friends and strangers alike.
When David was eleven, a family friend noticed a bump in his neck. Three and a half years later he would finally have the lump removed. Despite being told he was fine, two surgeries left David with only one vocal chord and a huge scar down his throat and neck. It wasn’t until later that David would learn he had had cancer and had not been expected to live. Small, a well-deserved award winning illustrator possesses an almost creepy ability to convey complex emotions through his drawings. The story itself is remarkable and the illustrations serve to heighten the impact.
Starting at a young age, Jack Acheson observes first-hand the development of Kings County, a fictionalized Johnson County, KS. Jack’s father, Alton Acheson, capitalized on the plans to build I-35 by buying property along the future highway, mostly through manipulation and by unscrupulous means. His father’s involvement with the principle players in Kansas City’s history positions Jack firmly in a circle of friends with influential parents.
Along with the long-forgotten contents of the basement of the Panama Hotel, Henry Lee’s memories of 1940’s Seattle are unearthed. When new hotel owners start to renovate the boarded up, old Japanese-designed building they discover the personal belongings of numerous Japanese families who were interned during WWII. As a resident of Seattle’s Chinatown, just the other side of the Panama Hotel from Japantown, Henry witnessed first-hand the removal of the Japanese.
When Charlie Nancy’s estranged father passes away, family secrets come tumbling out at the funeral. Disbelieving that he could possibly be the son of a god, Charlie inadvertently calls the brother he didn’t know he had into his life. Havoc ensues and Charlie must find a way to extricate himself from his brother while learning what it means to be the son of Anansi, the African and Caribbean trickster god. Adult fans of Harry Potter will enjoy the sudden revelation of a secret life and Charlie’s ensuing transformation.
When Junior announces that he wants to attend the white school off the reservation he is not only ostracized, but tormented by his own people. As he dips one foot into the strange world of white people and keeps the other firmly planted on the reservation he feels torn between the better life he glimpses at his new school and the life he has always known.
Senna’s narrative is very much in the vein of Walls’ The Glass Castle or Bragg’s All Over But the Shoutin. It surpasses both for its examination, not only of Senna’s parents relationship, but for its exploration of identity today, yesterday and tomorrow.
According to Wikipedia, a “coming of age” story is one which details a young person's transition from adolescence to adulthood. This describes Every Last Cuckoo, except Sarah Lucas’ transition is one from a comfortable coupled existence as a mature woman to one in which she must make her own way. At seventy-five, Sarah’s husband of fifty years has died unexpectedly leaving Sarah and their two dogs alone in their rural Vermont home.
Alford’s exploration of what constitutes wisdom and where it comes from read a little more lightly than I would have expected. While Alford has done his research and shares many of the gems he has gleaned from his reading, I didn’t feel enlightened. His experiences during his mother’s divorce and his interviews with the elderly are entertaining, but they impart no wisdom in the end.
David Sheff shares the heart-breaking story of his son Nic’s tenuous life on drugs. Interwoven in the story are the results of research and studies about kids from shared custody homes, the affects of drugs (especially Methamphetamine) on the human body and psyche, and advice from a variety of sources for friends and families of addicts. Beautiful Boy especially resonates with me, as Sheff searches for answers as to how this could have happened to his son and in what ways he might be responsible.