Cannonball Read # 44: Americans in Space05/07/2010
Americans in Space by Mary E. Mitchell is about a mother of two whose husband dies quietly while sleeping, leaving her to raise their teenage daughter, and very young son alone. Kate is a guidance counselor at the high school her daughter, Charlotte, attends. It’s been two years since Kyle died, but Kate is struggling. The whole family is struggling.
Charlotte is in the middle of the typical teen rebellion – tongue piercing, tattoo, risque MySpace page. She blames her mother for not saving her father, and she lets Kate know it. Four-year-old Hunter speaks little and carries around a ketchup bottle as a security object. Their neighbor, Marge, keeps the house in order for them, and serves as a surrogate mother for the kids because Kate still can’t quite get it together. A couple different men in Kate’s life show interest in dating her, and try to woo her back to taking part in life, but she is not quite ready. Kate’s still trying to linger within the past.
I don’t need to see the photograph to know it by heart — the four of us in the leafy park, Kyle heaving Hunter over one shoulder like a sack of happy potatoes, Charlotte, loose-haired and grinning, with her arms around her father’s waist. And me, with arms crossed, slightly askance from the rest of them, the smile on my face says, This is all mine.
This quiet little novel gets under your skin. As Kate struggles to reconnect with her daughter and son, other events occur at the school and home. We root for this family, and Mitchell’s prose is piercingly sweet. Will Kate decide she’s ready to date someone? Will she survive Charlotte’s teen angst? Will Hunter give up his ketchup bottles? You’ll rush through to the sweet ending to find out.