Recent high school graduates, Stevie and Nora are deeply in love in rural west Pennsylvania. The problem? They are two girls in an ultra-conservative town and their love must be kept a deep secret. Only they know. I do wonder if homophobia is still so prevalent, even in rural areas. In my travels as an author in rural Illinois, I have not found that to be true. Perhaps it is in western Pennsylvania or perhaps I’ve traveled to particularly enlightened small Illinois towns.
But in this contemporary story, the young women have made plans to flee to southern California where they can share a life, in love, openly.
But Stevie has a devastating fall, resulting in a coma, and when she wakes, she’s lost her memory of the last two years. Once Stevie starts the long road to recovery, she doesn’t understand why she and her mother had grown apart, why her father is working so much she never sees him, or why her best friends feel distant and treat her oddly. She has no recollection of the boy, Ryan, she was told she was crushing on.
Ryan is a nice boy, but Stevie wishes she felt some heat at the thought of kissing him. What’s wrong with her? She’s grown apart from those two girlfriends, one of whom has a racist boyfriend, which makes both old girlfriends behave in racist ways. Stevie and Ryan are the only Asian-looking kids in their town and therefore they’re targets for racism, which they’re expected to ignore or laugh at.
Stevie has forgotten Nora, which hurts Nora immeasurably. Stevie’s family is grateful to this “stranger” who somehow managed the herculean task of carrying unconscious Stevie from the bottom of a deep forested gully and to find help, which saved her life.
Nora has been made physically strong working her family’s cattle farm all her life. She repairs fences, hefts sacks of feed, and sells meat at the family store, but she’s trying to be vegan. Her mother is cruel and physically abusive to her daughter. There’s no father in sight. Nora was counting on leaving behind her unbearable life and moving to California with the love of her life, Stevie.
Nora hovers just outside her hospital room door, visiting Stevie whenever the parents take a break, hoping Stevie will, first, wake up, and then remember her. But Stevie’s memory is not jogged into remembering Nora.
Because this is a young adult (YA) book, you expect it to end, at least on a positive note. Without giving the course taken and spoil it for the reader, I’ll say this story shows the strength of love against any obstacle and all odds. What a great theme!
Patricia Hruby Powell is the author of the award-winning books: Lift As You Climb; Josephine; Loving vs Virginia; and Struttin’ With Some Barbecue all signed and for sale at Jane Addams bookstore. Her forthcoming books are about women’s suffrage, Martha Graham, Ella Fitzgerald, as well as poems about waterfowl. talesforallages.com