The bestselling novel and deeply affecting story of a young girl who comes to terms with her father's death in Vietnam two decades earlier
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date:
Read an Excerpt
"I have to stop again, hon," Sam's grandmother says, tapping her on the shoulder. Sam Hughes is driving, with her uncle, Emmett Smith, half asleep beside her.
"Where are we?" grunts Emmett.
"Still on 1-64. Mamaw has to go to the restroom."
"I forgot to take my pill when we stopped last," Mamaw says.
"Do you want me to drive now?" Emmett asks, whipping out a cigarette. He smokes Kents, and he has smoked seven in the two hours they have been on the road today.
"If Emmett drives, I could set up front," says Mamaw, leaning
forward between the front seats. "I'm crammed in the back here like a sack of sausage. "
"Are you sure you feel like driving, Emmett?"
"It don't make no difference."
"I was just getting into it," says Sam, irritated.
It is her new car. Emmett drove through the heavy traffic around Lexington, because Sam wasn't experienced at city driving, but the interstate is easy. She could glide like this all the way across America.
At the next exit, Exxon, Chevron, and Sunoco loom up, big faces on stilts. There's a Country Kitchen, a McDonald's, and a Stuckey's. Sam has heard that Stuckey's is terrible and the Country Kitchen is good. She notices a hillside with some white box shapes-either beehives or a small family cemetery-under some trees. She shoots onto the exit ramp a little too fast, and the tires squeal. Mamaw gasps and clutches the back of Sam's seat, but Emmett just fiddles with the buttons on the old Army jacket in his lap. Emmett dragged it out of his closet before they left. He said it might be cold in Washington, It is summer, and Sam doesn'tbelieve him.
Sam pulls in at the Sunoco and springs out of the car to let Mamaw out. Mamaw has barrel hips and rolls of fat around her waist. She is so fat she has to sleep in a special brassiere. She shakes out her legs and stretches her arms. She is wearing peachcolored knit pants and a flowered blouse, with white socks and blue tennis shoes. Sam does not know Mamaw Hughes as well as she does her other grandmother, Emmett's mother, whom she calls Grandma, but Mamaw acts like she knows everything about Sam. It's spooky. Mamaw is always saying, "Why, that's just like you, Sam," or "That's your daddy in you, for the world." She makes Sam feel as though she has been spied on for years. Bringing Mamaw along was Emmett's idea. He is staring off at a bird flying over the Sunoco sign.
"Regular?" a blond boy in a Sunoco shirt asks.
"Yeah. Fill 'er up." Sam likes saying "Fillup." Buying gas is one of the pleasures of owning a car at last. "Come on, Mamaw," she says, touching her grandmother's arm. "Take care of the car, would you, Emmett?"
He nods, still looking in the direction of the bird.
The restroom is locked, and Sam has to go back and ask the boy for the key. The key is on a ring with a clumsy plastic Sunoco sign. The restroom is pink and filthy, with sticky floors. In her stall, Sam reads several phone numbers written in lipstick. A message says, 'The mass of the ass plus the angle of the dangle equals the scream of the cream." She wishes she had known that one when she took algebra. She would have written it on an assignment.
Mamaw lets loose a stream as loud as a cow's. This trip is crazy. It reminds Sam of that Chevy Chase movie about a family on vacation, with an old woman tagging along. She died on the trip and they had to roll her inside a blanket on the roof of the station wagon because the children refused to sit beside a dead body. This trip is just as weird. A month ago, Emmett wouldn't have gone to Washington for a million dollars, but after everything that happened this summer, he changed his mind and now is hell-bent on going and dragging Mamaw along with them.
"I was about to pop," Mamaw says.,
That was a lie about her pill. Mamaw just didn't want Emmett to know she had to pee.
When they return the key, Mamaw buys some potato chips at a vending machine. "Irene didn't feed us enough for breakfast this morning," she says. "Do you want anything?"
"No. I'm not hungry."
"You're too skinny, Sam. You look holler-eyed."
Irene is Sam's mother, Emmett's sister. They spent the night in Lexington with her in her new house--a brick ranch house with a patio and wall-to-wall carpeting. Irene has a new baby at the age of thirty-seven. The baby is cute, but Irene's new husband has no personality. His name is Larry joiner, but Sam calls him Lorenzo Jones. In social studies class, Sam's teacher used to play tapes of old radio shows. Lorenzo Jones was an old soap opera. Sam's mother's life is a soap opera. The trip would be so different if her mother could have come. But Sam has her mother's credit card, and it is burning a hole in her pocket. She hasn't used it yet. It is for emergencies.
Emmett is in the driver's seat, with the engine running. He is drinking a can of Pepsi. "Are y' all ready?" he asks, flicking cigarette ash on the asphalt. He has moved the car, but it's still close to the gas pumps. A scene of a sky-high explosion, like an ammunitions dump blowing up, rushes through Sam's mind.
" Give me a swig of that," says Sam. "Did you pay?" She takes a drink of Emmett's Pepsi and hands it back.
What People are Saying About This
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
This book is a very good book in my opinion. Although it jumps around a little bit the story line is very well written throughout the entire book. Bobby Ann Mason did a great job in helping the reader get into the book. The detail that she puts into this book is very good and this allows you to picture what the characters are doing in the book. Although this book does have quite a few flaws as well; one of the flaws that people might not like is that Bobby Ann Mason uses quite vulgar language that is used throughout the most of the book. Another flaw in her book is the mentioning of sex and pregnancy. This book shows many different emotions throughout the book, such as sympathy, pain, sorrow, confusion, and many other emotions. She does a remarkable job with not letting you get confused with how many different emotions that she puts in this book, and I think that Bobby Mason deserves some credit for that, because she could have left you wondering "what the heck just happened." This book to me was slightly dull at times, because of how long of a period the book went by until you got to what the characters goals were. But as soon as you can find out what the goal is the book just keeps getting better and better as you get further into the book. Now that I have read this book I know why it is a classic. I personally like this book because it is showing how people really live and how it is not a fairy tale or something that right off the bat you can tell that it is not fiction. It just has that kind of spark that a book needs to be a really good book. I like it because it is one of those books that are place about fifty years ago and it gives the younger readers a view of what it was like after the Vietnam War. Bobby Mason does a great job in detailing how life was like after the war for Sam and Emmet. She wrote pages about the different opinions of the war from several different characters and what they are still suffering through because of the war. She also shows the worry of the family of the returned vets and how the vets are still coping with the world without the war. I think that this book was written very much, but I would not recommend this book to those people that do not like the vulgar language and the other things. But I would recommend this book to those that do not mind the language and to those that like books that are based on peoples' lives after the Vietnam War, and how it shows people's feelings for the war. It would also be a good book for those people that do not like the fake and cheesy stories, or how it seems real until something messed up happens.
This novel started on a promising note. It contained the elements of a good story. And the ending was absolutely poignant. But the middle was terrible. The narrator, Sam, is a thoroughly despicable person. She's ignorant, unrealistic, and horribly selfish, she drinks, smokes marijuana, cheats on her boyfriend, resents her mother for daring to move on in life, and has utter disdain for her industrious and generous stepfater urges her happily pregnant friend to have an abortion. The authors goes on in way too much detail about the kinds of household products the characters have, the food they eat, and the TV they watch. The author furthermore makes the book difficult to read by providing too much information about Sam's bathroom habits and way, way too much detail on Sam's sexual adventures with her boyfriend and with an ED-plagued veteran twice her age, with whom she suddenly becomes obsessed for no apparent reason. Then, just to make things really bizarre, the author throws in a man-hating diatribe. The worst parts of all are when Sam goes camping in the swamp and attempts to equate that to a soldier's experience in Vietnam and when Sam is mysteriously stricken with post-traumatic stress, especially since she hasn't done anything traumatic. Her mental ordeal is laughably unrealistic. Craziness like that ruined the book for me.
in short this book is horrible and i hated it