Carol Lynch Williams, who never flinches from tackling situations that may seem in fact, miles from the norm, but are unfortunately happening way more often than should be.
Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Lacey wakes to a beautiful summer morning excited to begin her new job at the library, just as her mother is supposed to start work at the grocery store. Lacey hopes that her mother's ghosts have finally been laid to rest; after all, she seems so much better these days, and they really do need the money. But as the hours tick by and memories come flooding back, a day full of hope spins terrifyingly out of control.... (From Goodreads.com)
Lacey is just looking forward to a normal day in her life. Just one day where nothing will go wrong, where her mom will not become paranoid and refuse to leave the house. Where her mom goes to a job like other parents. And Lacey, she is looking forward to starting her volunteer job at the library, where her Aunt Linda used to work. The very same Aunt Linda who her mom took out a restraining order against, barring her from Lacey's life, slicing out that very small portion of normalcy in one fell swoop. But today, on this one day of summer, things will go right.
Oh how hopes are dashed in this novel. It's a slim story but let me tell you, it packs more than a punch. It is scary, sad, anxiety-ridden, and tense. You will absolutely ache for Lacey as she tries to be like other teen girls her age. She wants a friend, wants some to sleep over at her house, wants to not be the weird girl at school, the girl people mock. She also wants to be a teen. She is tired of being the adult but she really does not know how to be anything else because the fact is, her mom needs her.
Told in both the present and the past, the author adeptly explores Lacey and her life. Lacey's mom wasn't always paranoid, scared, and depressed. There are genuine moments of sisterly laughter as Lacey's mom and her Aunt Linda reminisce about their childhood. But unfortunately, those moments are edged out by the illness overtaking the family. Lacey sees it happening and once her Aunt Linda is gone, on her mom's orders, Lacey's life falls into disarray as she tries to get her mom into a normal routine.
The book is a tense ride from the very beginning until the end. Nothing is easy for Lacey, and certainly not "normal" as she discovers when her mom goes missing yet again on a day that was supposed to be filled with hope and dreams. Quickly it is turned into a day of fear, anger, and sadness. And horror, plenty of horror, and not in a bloody gruesome Saw type movie way, but in the horror that is so much a part of every day life. Seriously, this book gave me chills.
Lacey also has to question if she is following her mother down her path of destruction. Is she too hearing voices? Has she succumbed to that utter depression and hopelessness? Fortunately there is a ray of light in this book and it is Lacey, who is much stronger than she gives herself credit for. And that's mostly because she is too busy, too consumed with taking care of her mother, that there is no way she can reflect on all the courage it takes for her to go about day to day life.
There is a lot of fear and hopelessness in this book, the idea that it is impossible for life to get better but Lacey has some hope and it revolves around her focus on finding some balance of normal in her life. I think by book's end she has come to the realization that normal is different for everyone, that she has to make her own normal, whatever that may be, but she has the power to take control of her life in a way she did not think about before.
It did take me a bit to reconcile the Lacey who called her mom "Momma" and seemed a bit immature for her age (but then, given her life, this seems reasonable) with the girl at the end of the book who struggles and fights for her dreams. (Though I did wonder just how old Lacey was. Was an age mentioned?) But given how much Lacey has had to coddle and coax her mother into even the smallest decisions, well it did finally click for me that this was just yet another layer of the character of Lacey. She had to seem weak in order for her mother to live and continue being a mother, in some small form.
Like I said, this is a slim story but it does not shy away from the harsh realities of mental illness. The climactic ending in particular will hit you in the gut like a violent punch. Miles From Ordinary is incredibly apropos for the story that takes place, but yet, it also encapsulates what it is like living with someone suffering from mental illness. It is not easy, not normal, for that person or their family and friends. Lacey is not a meek character and in her mother's illness, she finds a strength she never thought possible.
I Swim For Oceans reviews Miles From Ordinary
ARC received from publisher.