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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