Review of “Miles From Ordinary” by Carol Lynch Williams

I always like to know the age of the protagonist. Especially if you are talking about a book featuring young adults, a year can make a huge amount of difference. Imagine my perplexity then, when reading reviews of this book (as I often do after reading a book), to see them uniformly refer to Lacey, the main character, as thirteen. Not just blogs do this. Amazon, Booklist, and Bookmarks also make this error. But the book jacket itself identifies Lacey as fourteen, and right on page five Lacey says, “Here I was, all of fourteen years old, and I was crawling into bed with my momma.” What’s the problem? Doesn’t anybody do his or her own fact-checking? Does anyone actually read and remember?

But I digress. On to the review.

Lacey, age 14 (ahem), lives with her paranoid schizophrenic mother, who refuses to take any medication. Lacey tries her best to care of her momma, but it’s a huge burden, and she would like to have a friend, just once. In fact, just once she did have a friend, but that friend never came back over after one frightening episode with Lacey’s mother, and moreover, told everyone at school what happened. Lacey’s mom’s sister, Aunt Linda, used to live with them and help take care of Lacey’s mom Angela, but Angela kicked her out and got a restraining order taken out on Linda lest she try to take Lacey away.

This is a circadian, or one-day novel, in which all the action takes place within a single 24-hour period. In this story, it begins with Lacey trying to get her mom to start a normal job as a checker at a Winn-Dixie, since they are out of money. While her mom is there, Lacey plans to volunteer at the library, where her Aunt Linda used to work. On the bus to their jobs, Lacey sees a neighbor boy, Aaron, who is very cute. He tries talking to her, but she is defensive at first, because no one talks to her without making fun of her. But Aaron is different. Maybe this day will actually work, and maybe everything will turn out okay. But maybe not….

Evaluation: I hated this book. That is not to say it isn’t good, but the circumstances of the story were frightening and all too common. I hate the horror that ensues when a sick person gets a bit better from medication and then decides that he or she can therefore stop the medication. It is no one’s fault. It just happens. A lot. It’s a very dangerous situation. I hated “experiencing” vicariously the abusiveness of a very sick mother influencing the mental integrity of her young offspring and no one being able to intervene. I hated what almost happened at the end of the day, and I hated thinking about the long-term effects of her upbringing on that poor little girl. In other words, yes, it’s another one of those books that I wish some other blogger had read so I could say in the comments, “Wow, I’m so glad you read this so I don’t have to!”

Rating: 2.5/5

Published by St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011

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19 Responses to Review of “Miles From Ordinary” by Carol Lynch Williams

  1. OK then I will say it! Because while I think it is important that authors write about mental illness so readers can learn and possibly make better decisions for their loved ones, I don’t want to have to go through the torture. So anyway, thank you for doing us that service.

    And I don’t know what it up the incorrect age. Maybe Amazon got it wrong and everyone followed suit. It may seem nit-picky to some, but there IS a difference between 13 and 14.

  2. Yes, the difference between 13 and 14 is huge, and that mistake seems pretty careless. I’m actually tempted to read this book, but know I’d be happier if I just thank you for reading it instead.

  3. Care says:

    I was sold when you said it is a ONE-DAY novel! but then sad when I realized I don’t like reading about real horrors, either. Sandy is right, though, it is good that writers write about such so someone may realized they are not alone in dealing with these heavy scary burdens.

  4. Ti says:

    Ah…this was my childhood.

    There is a huge difference between 13 and 14. Maybe the age changed in the final edit and the other stuff was already written??

  5. Rita K says:

    Glad I won’t have to read it.

  6. zibilee says:

    Oh, this sounds frightening for so many reasons, but the ones that you mention are enough to keep me away from this book. I find books like this terribly disturbing, and though I am sure it is a cautionary tale, just what is it cautioning against. This one is decidedly not going on my list. Thanks for reading it so I don’t have to! 😉

  7. Thanks for the warning! And for doing the fact-checking – how odd that so many got the age wrong.

  8. Amy @ My Friend Amy says:

    First of all, lol about the age stuff. TBH it’s the kind of detail I might forget and rely on other stuff to remember when writing about? IDK.

    secondly, thanks for reading this book so I don’t have to. (tho I might still read it)

  9. BermudaOnion says:

    Books like this can be painful to read but I do think they’re important.

  10. bookingmama says:

    Wow! I think I know what you mean about having someone else read this. So… thanks!

  11. Jenners says:

    I kind of want to use your comment but I”m sure I wouldn’t be the first. It sounds just depressing and I bet there is no resolution or hope offered at all.

    • Ginny Tilby says:

      I read it and I’m glad. This happens to people and it happened to my mom while I was alone with her, though far, far less extreme from this book. This book offered me a perspective I deeply needed and helped me to finally, finally talk about it. This book leaves the reader with hope. Great hope. Life doesn’t get peachy at the end, but she makes the decision to be strong, to be more, and not be like her mom. Which I needed. I needed it all. And I needed it to be awful. I needed to know it’s okay to feel like it was awful. I’d recommend it. Though maybe not for a 13 year old. 😉

  12. Darlene says:

    It really bugs me when the facts are recorded wrong too. I have this book somewhere and remember thinking it sounded so good. Now I’m not s sure I would want to put myself through reading it.

  13. librarian says:

    It’s important for fiction to include bad parents and other real-world horrors, but I agree that an entire book of it is not the Way. Phillip Pullman struck a nice balance with Will taking care of his mom in The Subtle Knife. Her illness was crucial to the story and added a lot of dimension to Will, but it didn’t beat the crap out of the reader.

  14. Am I shallow to dislike sad, hopeless books? Maybe, but I do. I read an interview with Jacqueline Woodson recently, where she say something to the effect that she thought it was an author’s duty to leave the reader with hope …and I must agree.

  15. Jenny says:

    Eek, sounds like a difficult read!
    That age thing would really bother me too!

  16. Staci@LifeintheThumb says:

    Working in a school and seeing the effects of parents with problems this will be a book that I have to read. I do have it on the shelves also, so I think I’ll read it over the summer.

  17. stacybuckeye says:

    I liked The Chosen One by this author. This one is definitely not one I’m interested in.

  18. Ginny Tilby says:

    I’m GLAD to have read it.

    Veeeerrry difficult read. I just began therapy to deal with my mother’s mental illness I faced as a youth when I read this. I had been in denial and stopped feeling my feelings a long time ago. I never cried about it and hadn’t cried still really before beginning therapy. This book hurt, but was a helpful tool for me to realize what happened to me, by seeing it through another’s perspective. It opened my eyes. I couldn’t put it down. Helped me to get in touch with my emotions. I sobbed, and I was grateful for the tears I was able to finally find. This stuff happens, and someone needs to write about it. We can’t shut our eyes and pretend it doesn’t happen. I felt less alone by reading this, and it helped me to talk about it. My life wasn’t THIS extreme. But I’m okay with what she wrote. And I’m glad. Thank you Carol.

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