Friday, June 23, 2017

{Review} ALLIE AND BEA by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Bea has barely been scraping by since her husband died. After falling for a telephone scam, she loses everything and is forced to abandon her trailer. With only two-thirds of a tank in her old van, she heads toward the Pacific Ocean with her cat—on a mission to reclaim what’s rightfully hers, even if it means making others pay for what she lost.

When fifteen-year-old Allie’s parents are jailed for tax fraud, she’s sent to a group home. But when her life is threatened by another resident, she knows she has to get out. She escapes only to find she has nowhere to go—until fate throws Allie in Bea’s path.

Reluctant to trust each other, much less become friends, the two warily make their way up the Pacific Coast. Yet as their hearts open to friendship and love from the strangers they meet on their journey, they find the courage to forge their own unique family—and begin to see an imperfect world with new eyes.

Mandy's Review:

How to begin.

When you begin to read the novel, it seems like a fairly straightforward story about two unlikely people winding up together in an unusual situation. When you finish reading the novel, you realize it has much more depth and weight to it than you first realized.

Bea is a 70-something lady who has been a widow for a few years. Her husband had left her a small savings that she's been trying to live on. The problem is her Social Security check was never quite enough to cover all the bills, so she had to use a little bit of the savings every month. One day, after writing checks for all of her bills and dropping them off, she gets a call from the IRS saying she owes $300. Bea willingly gives them her checking account information to pay them off, even though it would further deplete her meager savings. The call was a scam and her checking account was wiped out. All of her checks were going to bounce. Panicked, Bea decided to pack up what she held most dear into her van and drive to another city, living in her van until the new month rolled around and her next Social Security check gets deposited into her new checking account.

With no money in hand and only a quarter tank of gas, Bea sets off. This new way of life causes Bea to decide to be someone she's not: a scammer. So, in essence, the student becomes the teacher. It works a couple times allowing Bea to get enough gas to take her further north up the California coast. On her way, she sees a hitchhiker and refuses to pick her up ... until the girl runs out in front of the van, causing Bea to slam on brakes.

Grateful that Bea has stopped, Allie climbs into Bea's van begging her, screaming at her, to drive. Allie had barely escaped from a guy involved in a possible human trafficking ring. Of course, she wouldn't have been with him had her parents not been arrested for tax fraud causing her to be placed in a foster home where one of the girls threatened to hurt her real bad. Running away from the foster home landed her in a prostitute ring, which Allie REFUSED to do ... thereby pissing off the pimp and causing him to call the guy that Allie barely escaped from and then running into Bea.

The two drive up the coast, all the way into Washington state, learning things about themselves and each other that change them forever. It's on their way back down the coast where real life finally catches up with them.

What I love most about this novel is the character development. Bea goes from being a reclusive, negative Nancy to someone who cautiously learns to trust strangers and has started to give herself over to experiencing new things. Allie starts the novel as a privileged, naive young lady and becomes a homeless, street-smart pre-adult wiser than her years. The emotional impact of this novel happens to more than just Bea and Allie, they happen to the reader as well. There were two passages that really spoke to me:

"I'm changing my mind about what's wasteful and what's not," Bea said. "Seems all my life I had to make choices between what I considered wasting money and what I now see was wasting my life. If it keeps you from wasting your life, it can't very well be a waste, now can it?" 

"I guess I wonder why I didn't try to do more," Bea said ... "I had all these hours that added up to all these days, and I look back and it seems my goal was mostly to make them go away. But that's not a proper life. That's not really living."

We shouldn't wish our day, week, month away. We should enjoy what we have and make the best of what we have. We should try new things. We should open ourselves up to new experiences, even if they scare us. That's how we truly live. Spending money on experiences isn't wasteful if it keeps you from wasting your life. Spending money on experiences isn't wasteful if it helps you experience new things that helps you grow as a person.

My only wish was that Bea's ending was fleshed out a little more. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate how the novel ended but there's so much the reader doesn't know. How did Bea deal with all of the bounced checks? Did she ever go back to her home and take care of everything? Did she go back to visit her best friend? I guess her ending was left a little more open than Allie's and my curiosity is getting the better of me. Regardless, we could all learn something from Allie and Bea.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

*A physical copy was provided by the publicist, Little Bird Publicity, in exchange for an honest review.

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