Okay, so: it’s been a hard, sad summer for me in a number of respects, and so I decided to read Greensleeves, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, on the long-ago recommendation (2008, when I had just begun to blog!) of Other Jenny. I thought, she loves it — what the heck, maybe it will cheer me up. In fact, it did. In fact, I was able to concentrate on reading (and not just on TV or browsing the internet) for the first time in weeks.
What was so engrossing? This book is about Shannon Lightley, who has just returned from her wretched senior year of high school and has no idea what she wants to do next. College? Employment? Go abroad with one or another of her several sets of parents? Nothing sounds right, and she is working herself up into a total state of panic when a family friend (Uncle Frosty) suggests a time-out: she will take an entire month off thinking about the situation at all, and take on a job for him. She’ll live in an apartment in a small town and keep an eye on the people in a little boarding-house — Uncle Frosty’s a lawyer, see, and he has a strange will with some odd bequests to these people (things like lessons for skydiving and money for classes that have no practical value) that make him think there might have been something fishy going on.
Shannon, though, is so exhausted by being Shannon that she takes this as an opportunity to become someone else altogether. She puts together a sort of disguise — new hairstyle, new clothes, different makeup (this part is kind of hilarious) — alters her accent, and gets a job as a waitress. Then she shimmies forth with a new kind of confidence to meet all the people in the will: the Greek professor who’s never been to Greece; the woman who does rose gardening at midnight; the intense young artist who draws weeds as if he’s a sort of Weed Audubon; the extremely charming Sherry, who reads a lot and notices people and is straightforward about what he wants from Shannon.
For a while, I thought this was going to be the sort of book where a girl who doesn’t know what to do with herself meets a boy (or boys) and finds out that that’s what she needs to do with herself. Not that I object to that in every case, but that wasn’t the book I needed. In fact, this book is utterly satisfying and charming, and also very different from that. It’s more about the boxes we put ourselves in, and how we feel confused and afraid when those boxes open up, but how large the world becomes afterward. It’s funny and adorable — Shannon’s voice is wonderful — but the themes resonate deeply. If you haven’t been convinced to read it by Jenny’s recommendations yet, let me add another. Have you read it? Tell me about what you thought!