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The Gap Year


The Gap Year

Cam Lightsey's daughter, Aubrey, has been slipping away from her over the past year. Cam always knew she would lose Aubrey to college eventually anyway, but she is filled with yearning, sorrow and regret as the gap between mother and daughter widens, seemingly irreparably. What has Cam done wrong during Aubrey's lifetime to make her daughter dislike her so much? Or is it Tyler Modenhauer, the football jock boyfriend Aubrey acquired over her senior year who is turning the girl against her mother?

"Sarah Bird's introspective plot exquisitely details the elusive bond between single mother and maturing teen daughter." 

Mother and daughter each present their side of the story in alternating chapters. Aubrey's description of her new life begins with the first day of her senior year when everything changed for her on one scorching August morning. Cam recounts the aftermath of that cataclysmic senior year, as she urges Aubrey to claim the college account her father arranged for her. Aubrey must collect the money immediately in order to pay the entrance fee for her first year of college. Inexplicably, Aubrey balks.

As a single parent, Cam has centered her whole life on her daughter. When she was pregnant, she persuaded her husband, Martin, to buy a home in the suburbs where she pictured an idyllic childhood for her baby. That dream went totally awry. Martin joined a religious cult and left Cam when Aubrey was a toddler. In his position in the Next! organization, he escorts celebrities who are Next! converts. Cam once gathered together a scrapbook of tabloid photos of Martin's hand shielding the faces of these stars from paparazzi. She gave this "Book of Palms" to Aubrey as a kind of joke. Little does she know that Aubrey pores over the scrapbook, wondering why and how her father left her.

As a lactation consultant teaching "Breast-feeding One-oh-one," Cam has ample opportunity to remember and contrast memories of her own child's infancy with the present-day obdurate teen. Within Cam, Zen Mother --- calm, comforting, enlightened --- battles it out with a mental group of Jerry Springer audience members who heckle her parenting techniques, urging her to "Whup her sorry ass!" So far, at least, Zen Mother seems to be winning.

Aubrey's life starts its metamorphosis on the day she attends band practice immediately before her senior year begins. It's August 12, 2009 and so hot outside, even though it's morning, that sweat pours down Aubrey's back. Due to an unfortunate discussion with her mother about the pirate hat band members are supposed to wear in support of their football team, Aubrey is not wearing the hat. As the Pirates practice on the field near the band's practice field, the band teacher berates Aubrey for her lack of respect. Suddenly it feels to Aubrey as if everything around her has grown brighter, and she walks to the water station for a drink. Before she can reach it, she passes out. When she comes to, Tyler is holding her in his arms, coaxing her to drink water. That's the moment when her life pivots, turning her in another direction entirely. Having Tyler in her life is one reason for her new perspective, but it's also due to another unexpected presence.

On August 12, 2010, exactly one year after Aubrey regains consciousness in the arms of Tyler, Cam deals with the aftermath. Aubrey no longer shares their goal of a college education, followed by adventures far from suburbia. She works in a "roach coach" (her mother's name for the lunch wagon Aubrey and Tyler rent) and doesn't return Cam's calls. When Aubrey vanishes, who can help Cam find her? The answer is the most unlikely hero imaginable.

Sarah Bird's introspective plot exquisitely details the elusive bond between single mother and maturing teen daughter. This can feel emotionally devastating at times, yet frequently manages to be hilarious thanks to wry narration by Cam and Aubrey. The pace is a bit leisurely yet enjoyable --- with a hugely satisfying climax.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon ([email protected]) on July 5, 2011

The Gap Year
by Sarah Bird

  • Publication Date: July 17, 2012
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • ISBN-10: 1451678762
  • ISBN-13: 9781451678765