Jones, Carrie. 2008. Girl, Hero.
I don't know why I was surprised by Girl, Hero being so wonderfully fantastic. I enjoyed both of Carrie Jones' previous novels: Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend, and Love (and Other Uses For Duct Tape). Perhaps it was the John Wayne factor. You see, the novel, Girl, Hero, consists of letters from our heroine, Liliana Faltin, to the legendary (but deceased) John Wayne. I was skeptical at first. But it worked. It really worked. Here's our introduction:
Dear Mr. Wayne,Jones' writing speaks for itself. She is an authentic writer, her characters have heart and soul--meaning depth and layers. And her stories have spirit or staying power. There's something about her books that just work.
My mother's got a man coming to see her. She's all excited, running around, getting ready, making me clean up the whole house. She thinks this man might be the one, you know, the big enchilada, her soul's mate, her life's light, and stuff. She's always thinking that.
She's had men before, since my stepfather died. But this guy's going to stay with us in our house, for a while. Not too long, she tells me. Just until he's back on his feet. This one's moving back east from Oregon and needs a place to sleep while he looks for work.
I think, that's what hotels are for, but she's so happy, humming all the time, singing Celine Dion songs, that I don't say anything that I'm thinking in my head.
She's made up the guest bedroom. I don't think he'll stay there. I don't know who she thinks she's fooling. Not me.
He's a tall man, Mr. Wayne, like you. She knew him a long time ago, back when she was married to my father. On the phone his voice sounds Western, or Texan, like he has traces of sand and grit stuck in it that float out with his words when he talks. He sounds like he's been in the desert a long, damn while and hasn't had any water to drink and has a mighty thirst.
He doesn't sound like he's from Maine, but she says he was born and raised here.
I didn't know that people could move and have their accents change, that all their baby years and teenage years of talking could just get erased.
My mother blows air out her nose when I say this to her, and she taps her fingernails on the kitchen counter, crosses her legs and gets out a cigarette.
People adapt, Liliana, she says, and the whole sentence is just one long exasperated sigh.
It's kind of cool in a way, the adapting thing. I mean, depending on how bad high school goes, I might want to erase all of it and pretend I'm someone else when I go to college--if I get into college.
My mom thinks this man will be like you: a hero kind of man with a clean face and soul. She thinks that about every man she sees. But they never are. There's only one you. (1-2)
"Sometimes I think friends are a necessary evil, say like McDonald's burgers. You need to have them, you want to have them, but sometimes they make your stomach ache." (6)
"Dear Mr. WayneI just fell in love with this book. With the characters. With their stories. With the language itself. With the cover itself. Everything about this book is just right, it's practically perfect right.
Before you were a movie star, did you have to do homework? I should get a biography about you so that I can know these things, but I'm afraid to. What if I open up the book and start reading and find out you aren't who I think you are? I want people to be who they're supposed to be, but nobody ever seems to want to. I'll give it to you firsthand, Mr. Wayne: nobody in this world seems to be who they are. And my guess is that most people don't even know who they are supposed to be. Which sucks. I'm not supposed to use that word. My mother acts like it's worse than the f-word or something. You would probably say the same thing." (24)
"Sometimes I get so scared, Mr. Wayne. Sometimes I am so far from being the cowboy with the hat and the horse and my gun drawn and ready. Sometimes I'm so far away from anything I want to be and it's like that sunset you're always riding to but you never quite reach." (104)
"Sometimes I think hugs are like helmets. Sometimes I wish I could walk around with someone hugging me the whole time. You could probably make a lot of money doing that, being a professional hugger." (262)
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews