You couldn′t really tell about Mama′s brain just from looking at her, but it was obvious as soon as she spoke. She had a high voice, like a little girl′s, and she only knew 23 words. I know this for a fact, because we kept a list of the things Mama said tacked to the inside of the kitchen cabinet. Most of the words were common ones, like good and more and hot, but there was one word only my mother said: soof.
Although she lives an unconventional lifestyle with her mentally disabled mother and their doting neighbour, Bernadette, Heidi has a lucky streak that has a way of pointing her in the right direction. When a mysterious word in her mother′s vocabulary begins to haunt her, Heidi′s thirst for the truth leads her on a cross-country journey in search of the secrets of her past. – Goodreads
Heidi lives with her mother, a developmentally and cognitively disabled woman who can’t read, write, or tie her shoes. Their next door neighbor, Bernie, helps them out, but she is strapped for cash as well. This book immediately made me sad. It was obvious Heidi didn’t go to school or have any experiences a kid her age should. I wondered who had gotten her mother pregnant. A woman with the kinds of disabilities Heidi’s mother had can’t consent to sex. Lots of hard questions came up right off the bat. Would Heidi be better off in state care? Would her mother? I felt badly for Heidi because her world is so tiny. There is so much more that she could do and accomplish rather than hanging out all day with her agoraphobic neighbor and taking care of her mother.
Heidi decides that she needs to know more, more about herself, her mother, their lives, everything. She finds some photos in the back of her mother’s closet and gets on a Greyhound (alone) headed to Liberty, New York to find herself. She meets people along the way who teach her about the world and how her actions affect others. She learns about lying, big families, and college, and she is presented with different perspectives. This is at its heart a coming-of-age tale, and we get some hints throughout the beginning that the knowledge Heidi uncovers may not be exactly what she wants to know.
Heidi, who has always been lucky, finds her luck has abandoned her when bad storms take down the phone lines and someone steals her money. She lands in Liberty penniless and alone. This trip is not what she thought it would be, and I had a bad feeling that the things she was going to find out would not be what she wanted either. I was right.
This book is sort of alternately frustrating and heartbreaking. It’s not a story with a happy ending, exactly, even though Heidi gets her answers. You can see happiness for her on the horizon, but it still seems far away. This is a great book about the search for truth and the sacrifices you make to get it.