Monday, March 16, 2009

Minding Mama

This is not the kind of book I usually read, but I found myself liking it in spite of my normal tendencies. Since I am still fighting off germs I picked it up from the library because it looked like a light, quick read, without any nasty thinking involved. I was half right, it was a quick read, but the themes were heavier than I was expecting.
Dorie June Grimes lives a plodding existence with an out-of-work husband, returned-to-the-fold son and caring for her aging mother. When her mother dies she decides to fulfill her promise and bury her in Utah as she wished. But since she has no money, she decides to drive from Georgia to Utah and hope for the best.
Despite a set-up that might remind you of a National Lampoon movie, the sentiment in the book is real and the humor that comes from carting a dead body half-way across the country is a decent leavening to an exploration of hopelessness and caring, and what you do if love is all you have left.
As Dorie crosses the country she meets a variety of interesting characters, who fall in with her in a rather typical outcasts and misfits collection. The collecting people and crossing the country part of the story wasn't that great. There are a lot of cliches; meeting bank-robbers, bad weather, car breaking down, finding a baby. But the worn-down love of the main character kept me reading. There are a lot of people who don't care in the world, and a lot of people who take care of others out of a sense of duty or possession or something else, but to do what you can, when it is very little and probably not enough, that takes love and caring.
Dorie learns a lot, about herself, about her mother and even about giving when you think it won't do any good. At the end, I was uplifted and glad that I stayed with Dorie, even through the cliches.
One note: If you are going to write about a place, go ahead and name it, since everyone will know what you are talking about anyway. Reading Jericho, UT and Turner, AZ, when it was obviously Page and Kanab keep pulling me out of the story every time the names came up.

Minding Mama. Marilyn Arnold. Mayhaven. 2004

1 comment:

jendoop said...

Isn't it interesting that this author seemed to get so close to writing a good story but didn't trust herself enough to depart from cliches. Why is that? If you were to go through the library and get rid of every book that depended upon cliches you wouldn't have much left to read. Yet the typical reader eats up the rehashed story line like yesturday's leftovers. Are we really so lacking in creativity? Or just starved for the familiar?