Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Coming of Age Review: No Alligators in Sight by Kirsten B. Feldman

No Alligators in Sight by Kirsten B. Feldman (Goodreads Author) 
Description:  In this coming of age novel, Lettie and Bert squeak by in a tiny town on Cape Cod, one parent an alcoholic and the other absent. After a string of bad decisions on Lettie’s part, their father ships them to their barely remembered mother for the summer, where they will learn hard lessons about themselves, their family, and their future by way of the Florida swamp. Throughout Lettie keeps her biting humor flowing, her razor-sharp pen at the ready, and her eye on her quest for a “normal” life.

My Review:  I don’t read very many coming of age stories, but I’m glad I read this one. The story is set in Cape Cod and in the Florida Keys and is told from the perspective of Lettie, a young girl seeking the one thing she’ll never truly have: a normal life.
I really love this book. It asks some difficult questions, but from the perspective of youth and innocence. Only a single summer is featured, but for Lettie, it’s a turning point. She’s getting ready to start highschool, trying to raise both herself and her younger brother despite her mother having left the family for another man and her father drowning himself in alcohol. But, she’s still a kid, and as some troubled kids do, she acts out. Her father, at his wit’s end, decides to let her see for herself why she shouldn’t want to live with her mom by sending her there for the summer.
She learns many things over the course of the summer, but I think that the most profound of these is that she doesn’t have to allow someone else’s mistakes ruin her own life. It’s really a message of taking charge of and owning your own destiny. A message of acceptance, but not viewing yourself through the lens of someone else’s opinion of you. It’s a tough lesson for Lettie.
Overall the story is well-written, well-edited and thought provoking. The characters are dynamic, realistic and tragic. But this isn’t a tragedy, this is a success story. A story of personal growth.
The story is told as a narrative and as a journal. Some of the sections are italicized and some aren’t. I couldn’t really see anything significantly different between those sections, but I believe the reason is that grown up Lettie and her daughter are taking turns reading her journal from that summer. Despite this, the story is a smooth read, though emotionally riveting. I had trouble putting it down. A good thing, right?
Anyway, I loved this story and would highly recommend it to folks who like contemporary coming of age books, particularly realistic ones.
 Books by Kirsten B Feldman: