Greetings from Nowhere

Overview

Aggie isn’t expecting visitors at the Sleepy Time Motel in the Great Smoky Mountains. Since her husband died, she is all alone with her cat, Ugly, and keeping up with the bills and repairs has become next to impossible. The pool is empty, the garden is overgrown, and not a soul has come to stay in nearly three months. When she reluctantly places a For Sale ad in the newspaper, Aggie doesn’t know that Kirby and his mom will need a room when their car breaks down on the way to Kirby’s new reform school. Or that ...

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Greetings from Nowhere

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Overview

Aggie isn’t expecting visitors at the Sleepy Time Motel in the Great Smoky Mountains. Since her husband died, she is all alone with her cat, Ugly, and keeping up with the bills and repairs has become next to impossible. The pool is empty, the garden is overgrown, and not a soul has come to stay in nearly three months. When she reluctantly places a For Sale ad in the newspaper, Aggie doesn’t know that Kirby and his mom will need a room when their car breaks down on the way to Kirby’s new reform school. Or that Loretta and her parents will arrive in her dad’s plumbing company van on a trip meant to honor the memory of Loretta’s birth mother. Or that Clyde Dover will answer the For Sale ad in such a hurry and move in with his daughter, Willow, looking for a brand-new life to replace the one that was fractured when Willow’s mom left. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that Aggie and her guests find just the friends they need at the shabby motel in the middle of nowhere.

From an author long recognized for her true Southern voice and heartfelt characters, Greetings from Nowhere, with its four intertwining stories, brings Barbara O’Connor’s work to a new level of sophistication.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Delivers a story that sparkles. . . . Readers will come to realize that everyone has something worth paying attention to, if you dig deep enough.” —Christian Science Monitor

"Another satisfying novel with a southern setting . . .The plainspoken text is clean, direct, and honest in its portrayal of pain and hope." —Booklist

"O'Connor carefully weaves together the hopes, fears, disappointments, sorrows and joys of her multi-generational cast to produce a warm and satisfying conclusion." —Kirkus Reviews

"O'Connor fans . . . won't be disappointed." —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"O’Connor’s knack for well-developed characters and feisty protagonists is evident, as is her signature Southern charm." —School Library Journal

School Library Journal

Gr 5-8- Aggie Duncan cannot muster the energy to fix up the Sleepy Time Motel since her husband died, and with no visitors stopping by on North Carolin's Smoky Mountains back roads, she reluctantly concludes that it's time to sell. Within days of placing an ad, she has an offer from Clyde Dover, who is eager to make a new life for himself and his daughter, Willow, after his wife's desertion. They are soon joined by Loretta and her parents, who are on a journey to learn more about Lorett's birth mother, and Kirby and his mother, whose car broke down en route to a last-ditch reform school. The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Aggie, Willow, Loretta, and Kirby as the four family units get to know one another and form unlikely friendships. While Clyde is eager to improve the motel, Willow shows him the wisdom of keeping some of Aggie's traditions. Angry Kirby, who has spent a lifetime living up to his label as a troublemaker, is initially irritated by Lorett's bubbling optimism, but he comes to appreciate the value of her trust. And Aggie learns that even the emptiness of her husband's absence cannot seal her heart from a girl who misses her mother. O'Connor's knack for well-developed characters and feisty protagonists is evident, as is her signature Southern charm. While the format increases the distance between readers and characters, the author's fans will find much to enjoy in this examination of family in the 21st century.-Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA

Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The lives of four families change when they intersect at a run-down motel in the middle of nowhere. For years Aggie and her late husband operated the Sleepy Time Motel in the Great Smoky Mountains. Alone now and facing a drawer of unpaid bills and endless repairs on the dilapidated motel, Aggie reluctantly puts a "For Sale" ad in the paper. Eager for a new life since his wife left, Clyde makes an offer on the motel and uproots his lonely daughter Willow to the Sleepy Time. A troubled kid, Kirby and his mom are en route to a special boys' school when their car breaks down and they show up at the motel. Filled with questions about her birth mother who has recently died, Loretta and her adoptive parents arrive at the Sleepy Time on a family vacation. As these unlikely folks come together in Aggie's tumbledown motel, they find something they need through the friendships that form. O'Connor artfully weaves together the hopes, fears, disappointments, sorrows and joys of her multi-generational cast to produce a warm and satisfying conclusion. (Fiction. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250062802
  • Publisher: Square Fish
  • Publication date: 8/25/2015
  • Pages: 224
  • Age range: 10 - 13 Years

Meet the Author

Barbara O’Connor has written numerous books for young readers, including How to Steal a Dog, The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, and most recently The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester. She lives in Duxbury, Massachusetts.

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Read an Excerpt

Greetings From Nowhere

Aggie

"Harold would have known what to do," Aggie said to Ugly. She tossed the unopened envelope into the junk drawer on top of the batteries and rubber bands, old keys and more unopened envelopes.

"Let's go sit and ponder," Aggie said.

She scooped up the little black cat and shuffled across the dirty orange carpet. Years ago, the carpet had been thick and fluffy, but now it was thin and flat, with a path worn from the bed to the bathroom.

From the bathroom to the kitchenette.

From the kitchenette to the door.

Aggie pushed the screen door open and sat in the aluminumlawn chair outside Room 5. The cat looked up at her with his one eye, twitched his torn ear, and purred.

Aggie smiled.

"That is one ugly cat," Harold had said the day Ugly had strolled out of the woods and sat outside their door, meowing and carrying on something awful.

Aggie had never cared much for cats, but there was something about this one that was different. So she had fed him tuna fish and he had been there ever since.

"Okay, Ugly," Aggie said. "What should we ponder today?"

But Ugly just closed his eye and went to sleep, leaving Aggie to ponder alone.

She looked out at the road. Waves of heat floated up off the steamy asphalt. The air was thick and still. Every now and then a car whizzed by, making the Queen Anne's lace along the roadside bob and sway.

Aggie took a deep breath and let out a sigh that made Ugly stir a little on her lap. She could feel the empty lawn chair next to her, like something big and heavy and dark, pulling at her. And even though she didn't want to, she looked at it.

Harold's chair.

Harold's empty chair.

And then Aggie started to ponder how in the world Harold could be gone. One minute he had been here withher at the Sleepy Time Motel. And then the next minute ...

Poof!

He was gone.

Just like that.

Keeled right over in the tomato garden without so much as a goodbye.

Then Aggie began to ponder what in the world she was going to do about all that mail in the junk drawer. Mail from the phone company and the electric company and the tax office.

Then she moved on to pondering how she was going to fix that clogged drain in Room 4 or what she was going to do about the wasp nest up under the eaves outside the office door.

And before long, Aggie felt so weighed down with sadness and worry that she couldn't stand to ponder another thing.

She picked up Ugly and went back inside.

She opened the blinds so her begonias could enjoy the noonday sun. Then she pushed aside the curtain that hung over the doorway between her room and the motel office.

"Maybe I should tidy up in there in case someone comes today and wants a room," she said to Ugly.

Aggie spent the whole afternoon tidying up the little office. She dusted the countertop. She straightened up the postcards on the rack by the door. She polished the little silverbell that guests rang to let her know they were there. She checked to make sure the room keys were in the right order on the cup hooks on the wall. Then she checked to see if the YES, WE'RE OPEN sign was still in the window.

She washed the coffee mugs she used for the free coffee. (That had been Harold's idea.) Then she straightened the stack of complimentary maps of the Great Smoky Mountains. (That had been her idea.)

"There," she said to Ugly. "Now we'll be ready if somebody comes."

But nobody came. Nobody had come for a long, long time. Nobody had come since ... when? Aggie wondered. She flipped open the motel guest book and looked at the last entry. Nearly three months ago. Mr. and Mrs. R. J. Perry from Ocala, Florida. They had gotten lost on their way to Lake Junaluska and had been so tired they couldn't drive another mile.

Aggie had put them in the nicest room. Number 10. The corner room with three windows. Outside the door was a rocking chair that Harold's brother Frank had made out of tree branches.

The next morning, Aggie had given the Perrys free coffee and a complimentary map, and then they had left, and nobody had stayed at the motel since.

Aggie looked around the little office.

"There," she said again. "All tidy."

Aggie was surprised to notice it was already getting dark outside. She shivered as a cool mountain breeze drifted through the open windows. She took Harold's old brown sweater off the hook behind the door and slipped it on.

Then she used a red marker to put a big X through May 22 on the wall calendar.

She had made it through another day.

Before she left the office, she flipped the switch that turned on the spotlight that lit up the Sleepy Time Motel sign.

The spotlight flickered once, twice, three times.

Then it went out.

Aggie shook her head. Harold would have fixed that old spotlight. He would have opened up his rusty toolbox and found just the right tool and gone straight out there and fixed it. Then the sign would have been all lit up for passersby to see.

SLEEPY TIME MOTEL FREE COFFEE COMPLIMENTARY MAP VACANCY

But now the sign was dark.

And now Aggie knew what she had to do. She took a piece of paper out of the drawer.

For Sale, she wrote, and felt a jab in her heart.

Sleepy Time Motel. Shawnee Gap, North Carolina.

Another jab.

Ten lovely rooms with mountain view. Swimming pool. Tomato garden.

Jab, jab.

For sale by owners, Harold and Agnes Duncan.

Then she felt a jab that nearly knocked her over. Her hand trembled so much she could hardly keep the pen on the paper as she scratched out Harold's name.

She folded the paper, turned out the lamp, and pushed aside the curtain over the doorway.

"Come on, Ugly," she said.

She shuffled along the orange carpet pathway to the kitchenette to make some toast and warm milk.

Ugly blinked up at her.

She put the toast on the chipped plate that she and Harold had gotten as a wedding present all those years ago. She poured the milk into the china cup that had belonged to Harold's mother.

Then she sat at the little table by the window, listening to the ticking of the kitchen clock, the low hum of cars zooming up the interstate behind the motel, the croak of a bullfrog out in the woods somewhere.

She stared down at the dry toast. Every now and then she took a sip of the warm milk.

Finally, she got up and dumped the toast into Ugly's bowl. The bowl that had Kitty written on the side in red. The bowl that Harold had bought at a yard sale.

She poured the milk over the toast.

Ugly made little slurpy noises as he lapped up the mushy milk toast.

Then Aggie followed the orange carpet path over to the bed and lay down on top of the flowered bedspread, pulling Harold's old brown sweater snugly around her like a blanket.

Ugly sauntered over, licking his lips, and curled up on the pillow next to her.

Aggie watched the sun sinking lower and lower behind the mountains until the sky was totally dark. Then she closed her eyes and waited for another day.

Copyright © 2008 by Barbara O'Connor

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