North of Beautiful

I woke up (or sort of woke up) in the middle of the night claiming that I had finally gotten it right.  Through the haze of what was moments before a quite deep sleep I heard my husband asking me what in the world I was talking about.  “My cartouche*”  I said adamantly (I remember being very adamant), “I finally got it right” – and then my sleep addled brain caught up to my mouth and I realized – it was the dead of the night and I had been dreaming – “Nothing I said, just the book I was reading” (Teach me to go to stay up late finishing a book).

That is what North of Beautiful is about though, Terra getting her cartouche right, making her mark rather than letting her birthmark make her.   Oh there is more – the abusive father filled with his own humiliation and anger, the mother who eats rather than standing up for herself, the brothers that scatter, the careless best friend, the charming old lady, the boyfriend who doesn’t listen, and the boy who does, a journey – both physical and metaphorical.

I  am not a fan of the extended metaphor and Headly wields it throughout the book with all the cartography, and artistic maps, not to mention the geocaching.    it, I get it, it is all about finding yourself.

Oh plot?  you wanted some plot points?  Well Terra is beautiful, except for the port wine birthmark on her face.  Or so she thinks – she is probably beautiful with the mark.  In her house not being perfect is grounds for verbal abuse that just skates along the edge of violence.  All she wants is out – away from her parents, and small town.  But no way is her father going to assist with that dream.   So what now – how does she plan for her life now?

Really this is a character piece, a bildungsroman.  With a little romance and a whole lot of metaphor.  Oh and symbols, an English teacher’s dream – and mine apparently.

*Map cartouches may contain the title of the map, a dedication, the printer’s address, date of publication, the scale of the map and legends. Terra uses it as an artist signature, a statement of here I am.

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before I fall

And it makes me feel, weirdly, like maybe all of these possibilities exist at the same time, like each moment we live has a thousand other moments layered underneath it that look different.

The physics teacher likes science fiction so I watch science fiction television shows with him.  There is a theme in the shows we watch – parallel universe theory. As a physics teacher I guess it is not weird that he likes that stuff.

In some ways this book is like a parallel universe story, although it also has a Groundhog Day connection as it is the story of the same day lived 7 times.  Sam, is a popular girl, a mean girl with four ‘fabulous’ friends, and a boyfriend she thinks she loves.  It changes one night after a party, an accident leaves Sam dead.  And living that day over and over.  There is the hope – can she fix this?  can she live each day in a different way so that the outcome changes her fate?  And why?  why does she live the day over and over?

It seems to be I have a read a couple of stories recently about how the girl that stands by, or is the lieutenant to the head mean girl is ultimately just as culpable, but what I like about this that Sam never really disavows her friends while at the same time coming to understand how wrong they have been.  She grasps her responsibility, and that gives her understanding for why they act the way they do – particularly Lindsey.  I can’t say I didn’t like the girls, I know in some ways I was supposed to dislike them, and come to like Sam as she goes through that day – again & again.  But really I never did fully dislike them, Sam was right when she recognized that as much as there was to hate in Lindsey, there was also something to love.

Here is the Animoto video I created for this book

Before I fall.

And the PowerPoint
before i fall