"Normal" is a big question for Cassia in my own novel, so this memoir of growing up on the heels of the hippie outbreak quickly commands my attention.
Somehow, much of my ebook reading lately comes out of California, and this one starts out in the San Francisco Bay Area before taking off into a two-year nomadic jaunt in Europe with her parents and younger sister. Their travel on the cheap could be a dream of a lifetime for many, though there are some perilous incidents. It's their return to the States where Shelly, as she was known, runs into social struggles. She just can't fit in, from first grade on. It's not really her fault, either. She's handicapped by her parents' many eccentricities, from the clothing she's given to the school lunches they pack for her to a chasmic ignorance of the TV shows her classmates have been watching.
After a fast start, the text becomes a series of flash chapters prompted by a snapshot or two that follow. I am curious about how to format the pictures in an ebook, but that's another matter. At this point, this book runs along like photo captions.
The tale picks up once she starts evaluating the inappropriate sex messages her parents and the mass media were providing, and then her recognition of her old-fashioned grandparents as an anchor of propriety and secure expectations on the weekends – essential boundaries for a child in contrast to the "if it feels good, do it" fog at home. She had good reason to see through her parents' hypocrisy as hippies, especially her father's tightwad, control freak nature, along with its tendencies for violence.
Especially valuable are the reason's Michele gives for turning away from her parents' generation – the hippie movement's ultimate breakdown in failing to pass the promise of revolution along. The outbreak of AIDS was only part of the wakeup call.
After that, the subtitle, "An ordinary life veers off track … way off," takes on a richly ironic and rewarding meaning.
(reviewed 5 days after purchase)