Just a few days after hearing her parents argue, or her mother yelling at her dad when the lights went out, and thinking that the argument had blown over Rebecca came downstairs for breakfast to find that her mother had all their mismatched suitcases laid out. Her mom told her they were going home, meaning they were leaving Baltimore for Atlanta and her gran. By the time she got home from school, the car was packed her two-year-old brother Lew strapped in his car seat, and she was
told to get in the car.
‘It’s time to go’, [mom] snapped. Then she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She let it out. ‘Don’t worry, you’ll see your father again. This isn’t the end of the world.’
But for twelve-year-old Rebecca, it was the end of the world. Torn from her father, her school and best friend without warning with her father running after the car, was pretty devastating for Rebecca. She stopped talking to her mother. Even when they arrived at Gran’s, she continued to boycott her mother. Looking for a phone to call her dad, she stumbled into the staircase to the attic where she found an old, red bread box. Having been wishing for all sorts of things, like her dad to show up, for a book. She found one in the bread box. Pretty soon she was wishing for all sorts of stuff that the bread box was able to provide, including money, candy for her brother, a phone, except it couldn’t bring her her dad.
Starting a new school, Rebecca, who “had never been the New Girl before,” was told to sit next to Hannah, the queen of the popular girls, and was introduced as Becky. She’d never been Becky, and never hung out with the cool girls. At home she hung out with Mary Kate; they read a lot, went to the park and liked to cook and bake together. Suddenly she found herself adopting the manners of the cool girls.
But at Gran’s she began to play with Lew and take him for walks in his stroller. She started to see that she wasn’t the only one that missed her dad. And she learned one of the reasons her mother had left home. It’s not long before all this accumulating stuff that doesn’t belong to her and being fake with her new friends blows up in her face.
At first I found the magic box kind of a strange plot device, but I still couldn’t put it down. I realized that after an episode like she experienced, wishing and magical thinking would be about all that was left. In fact Snyder portrays the divorce and its effect on Rebecca and Lew incredibly vividly. Her Gran is supportive and loving but forthright about how Rebecca is going to have “to do some stretching.” In a way, he Gran is the person who provides her the support she needs during this chaotic period. After what could have turned into a disaster, Rebecca learns to speak for herself.
This is definitely a tear jerker. I decided to read it after reading a glowing review of Snyder’s forthcoming book, SWAN: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova . Even though they are totally unrelated, I’m very glad I read it.