Sunday, August 3, 2014

Take it to the moon, take it to the stars

Book: The Time It Takes to Fall
Author: Margaret Lazarus Dean
Published: 2007 (Simon & Shuster)
Pages: 305

You guys, this was the best reading surprise I've had in a really long time. Walk with me through some Personal Backstory here. In May 2013 I took a road trip with my then-boyfriend and another friend to see our awesome Virginia People, and on the way back we stopped at this giant sort of gas station/Wal-Mart/Dollar Tree hybrid that wanted to be South of the Boarder only for the saddest excuse of highway capitalism ever. It was late, it was getting dark, we needed to pee, I saw their discounted books section, and I instantly made up a new tradition that would compel me to buy one. About twenty minutes into our stop, the boys find me with those round blank stares that mean HELP I HAVE SEEN THE SHOPPING ABYSS AND IT IS LOOKING BACK so we skeedaddled and boy am I glad we don't have a chain of JR's around here.

So I wasn't expecting this book to blow me away like it did. I put off reading it for, what, like a year and quarter before I was finally distant enough from the trip, the breakup, and my last trip to a mall (which, seriously, I can't even remember) to be as objective as I was going to get.

And it's SO GOOD, you guys. SO GOOD.

It's about a girl growing up in Florida during the early '80s NASA boom because her dad's a technician, and she keeps track of all the launches and wants to be an astronaut but she doesn't tell anybody because it's still geeky, and she's right there to experience the Challenger explosion and its ripple effects on the space program and everybody's jobs, and she sort of whiffs a crush that the son of her dad's boss has on her, and her mom leaves probably to go be with that boss but she's only got circumstantial evidence, and she skips a grade to get into high school early and she just does all this coming-of-age with language that blooms with her realizations and maybe the ending's a little too happy but it's also ambiguous enough to think that it's just a last doomed try at normalcy. I've gone back and forth between reading it and writing this.

I really enjoyed the story, because I wish NASA was an important thing again so hard, and I enjoyed the tone because it was pitch-perfect for a smart young teenager slowly finding out how much of grown ups' lies she's already uncovered and what other sort of surprises they have for her, and I enjoyed how naturally her awkwardness and confidence ebbed and flowed as she got better at some things and exposed new-found clumsiness in others.

So I'm glad this is a good book because I bought it on a good trip with good people and as a like symbol it works well for how we've all managed to stay good friends through my own personal Depressing Truck Stop of Life.

Um. Yeah. Just go read this. It is staying all over my bookshelf, and my library has a copy of it, so there is at least one place you can get this instead of the only other place on the side of the Interstate beside Denny's.

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