Monday, February 22, 2010

Dairy Queen - Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Catherine Gilbert Murdock is Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) 's sister. This book was mentioned in Committed (I can't remember if it was in the acknowledgements section or actually part of the book - but Elizabeth Gilbert suggested checking out her sister's writing and since I am very fond of young adult novels it seemed like a wonderful suggestion).

Dairy Queen is the story of D.J. figuring out who she is and what she wants from life - which boils down to not wanting to be a cow. Probably a wise decision. Her family is very non-communicative which has resulted in two brothers who have moved away and are no longer on speaking terms with the rest of the family - the reasons behind this are cloaked in mystery - a father who was a farmer until an injury and subsequent refusal to get an operation has left him in charge of the kitchen, a mother working 2 jobs to try and make ends meet, and teen-age D.J. doing all the work on the farm with the assistance of her younger brother (when he can be spared from baseball practice and games and driving his father to physical therapy) who has completely stopped communicating with anyone - and now with the rather reluctant assistance of Brian Nelson, stuck-up rich kid who has been sent to help by his football coach in the hopes that he will learn how to actually work at something. Brian points out that when you don't talk, there's a lot of stuff that winds up not getting said.

D.J. decides that the time has come to change her life, and in typical Schwenk family fashion proceeds to do this without actually discussing it with anyone for as long as she can get away with it. The book turns out to be her English writing assignment - sort of a "What I did on my summer vacation" essay - which is a style that I think works very well for this sort of story. You get to see inside the main character's head, but from her own point of view rather than an omniscient narrator. It is a lovely story. The ending is very satisfying without wrapping up all the loose ends so tightly that they can't possibly ever come unraveled again. D.J. has made a lot of progress over the course of the summer, but it is clear that while she is on the right track, things aren't going to actually be easy. On the other hand, if she continues on the way she is going, she stands a really good chance at actual happiness.

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