A Room on Lorelei Street

( 5 )


A room is not much. It is not arms holding you. Not a kiss on the forehead. Not a packed lunch or a remembered birthday. Just a room. But for seventeen-year-old Zoe, struggling to shed the suffocating responsibility of her alcoholic mother and the controlling guilt of her grandmother, a rented room on Lorelei Street is a fierce grab for control of her own future. Zoe rents her room from Opal Keats, an eccentric old lady who has a difficult past of her own, but who chooses to live in the possibility of the future....

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A Room on Lorelei Street

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A room is not much. It is not arms holding you. Not a kiss on the forehead. Not a packed lunch or a remembered birthday. Just a room. But for seventeen-year-old Zoe, struggling to shed the suffocating responsibility of her alcoholic mother and the controlling guilt of her grandmother, a rented room on Lorelei Street is a fierce grab for control of her own future. Zoe rents her room from Opal Keats, an eccentric old lady who has a difficult past of her own, but who chooses to live in the possibility of the future. Zoe tries to find that same possibility in her own future, promising that she will never go crawling back. But with all odds against her, can a seventeen-year-old with a job slinging hash make it on her own? Zoe struggles with this worry and the guilt of abandoning her mother as she goes to lengths that even she never dreamed she would in order to keep the room on Lorelei Street.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Pearson sophisticatedly crafts a quietly cramped, small-town Texas community. All literary elements . . . seamlessly and poetically coalesce.”—Kirkus Reviews

“You may not agree with her choices, but you’ll think about them long after you finish her story. READ IT.”—Teen People

KLIATT - Claire Rosser
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, July 2005: In a small town in Texas, Zoe, a nearly lost 17-year-old daughter of an alcoholic, is trying to find her own way. All her life, she has covered for her mother, cared for her little brother, and listened to her opinionated grandmother; now, she feels her only hope of survival is to escape, to get away. Her little brother is safe with an uncle and his wife, her father has been dead for several years, her mother is not getting any better—so Zoe finds a room in the home of a wonderful elderly woman. She has to save every penny she earns as a waitress at a local diner and still it never is enough for rent, for food. She is on the tennis team and she has some good friends, but it seems before she can become her own person, fall in love, get along in school, someone has to nurture her. Opal, her landlady, is one of the few adults in her life who enjoys her company and supports her emotionally. This is a raw story. Zoe's mother is a piece of work, completely selfish and irresponsible. She brings strange men into their home unexpectedly for sex. Zoe has to clean up her mother's vomit and try to keep her alive. The story begins when Zoe gets into trouble the first day of school, when a teacher is disrespectful and Zoe curses at her. Something snaps, and the fury Zoe feels in general erupts. Some counseling is offered at school, but Zoe is too wary to reveal the truth of her life to strangers. The pressures build and we worry about Zoe's survival until the last pages of this poignant novel. Zoe is no virgin, and her inability to be comfortable with herself is reflected in her failed sex life. Even when she gets away from her mother,the guilt and responsibility nearly crush her. The author makes us all understand how crippling it is to be the child of an alcoholic. The room on Lorelei Street represents hope in the possibility there can be something good for Zoe in her future. (An ALA Best Book for YAs.) Reviewer: Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up-When Zoe's teacher mispronounces her name on the first day of class, the 17-year-old explodes. To teachers and administrators, she is just another rebellious teenager. Not even her friends know or understand the depth of her emotional stress. Caring for an alcoholic mother, dealing with an overbearing grandmother, going to school, and working to make ends meet all collide and Zoe finally walks out. She finds solace in a small rented room on Lorelei Street and discovers a new friend in Opal, her eccentric elderly landlord. Throughout the novel, Zoe struggles with her feelings for Mama, which swing from hatred to guilt to longing; thoughts about her father, whose accidental death may have been suicide; and her need for attention, which has resulted in numerous sexual relationships. Unable to make enough money at her waitressing job to pay the rent, Zoe finds that she will do anything-no matter how self-destructive-to keep her safe haven. For her, the rented room represents an escape from an impossible situation, a break from suffocating family bonds that gives her the impetus to start a new life. The third-person narration is at times lyrical, vividly expressing the teen's feelings and motivations. This book is a good read and the message--while powerful--is not overpowering.-Sharon Morrison, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Durant, OK Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Headstrong 17-year-old Zoe longs to escape the smothering helplessness of her alcoholic mother. After school, she works nights in a local diner to make ends meet, and then spends the rest of her night cleaning up whatever daily mess-physical, emotional or financial-her mom creates. But each night on her way home, she allows herself 15 minutes of solitary, peaceful diversion in the guise of an empty, warmly lit window on Lorelei Street-a window that symbolizes her desire for freedom and piece of mind. The symbol becomes reality when a rental sign appears in front of the house. Zoe scrounges to find both the rent money and courage to abandon her mother, and she moves into the room, only to discover that making it on her own in the adult world is much more complicated than she could have ever expected. Out of Zoe's troubled scrutiny, Pearson sophisticatedly crafts a quietly cramped, small-town Texas community. All literary elements-characters, setting, mis-en-scene-seamlessly and poetically coalesce into her ephemerally hot and cold teenage persona whose tough outer shell masks enough skeletons in the closet to eat her alive. (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312380199
  • Publisher: Square Fish
  • Publication date: 9/30/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 957,872
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 740L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary E. Pearson’s books to date are The Adoration of Jenna Fox, The Miles Between, and Scribbler of Dreams. She writes full time from her home in San Diego.
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Read an Excerpt


It used to be a house.

You could almost have called it pretty.

She stares at chain-link threaded with weeds, a few of them blooming. Her vision blurs on white petals and regains focus on a patch of lawn the fence holds in—or what might have been a lawn once. She can't remember that it has ever been green but knows it once was more than the dusty stubble it is now. She thinks about the rough texture between her toes, running across it, barefoot, with the hot Texas sun pressing down from above and a cool, lazy sprinkler refreshing from below. She remembers a six-year-old girl whose laughter came easy. She remembers but wonders, Was it ever really that way?

No pretense is made of throwing out a sprinkler now. It is not a house anymore. She knows that. The only life is in the weeds that live in the protection of the chain-link.

She throws down her cigarette and mashes it on the sidewalk, kicking it over with a pile of a dozen others. She breathes out one last, smoke-filled breath and almost smiles. There is still a little pretense left. She slips a peppermint into her mouth and lifts the latch of the gate. It groans, low and heavy, whispering, Don't go in. Don't go in.

But she does.

A ROOM ON LORELEI STREET Copyright © 2005 by Mary E. Pearson.

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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

1. Zoe experiences increased frustration with her mother. “I can’t. Not anymore. Not one more sentence, one more word, one more breath, or I will explode,” she thinks (p. 8). Discuss the dynamics of the relationship between Zoe and her mother. How does Zoe respond to her mother’s disrespect for her? How does she give her younger brother, Kyle, the compassion that she wishes her mother had given to her?

2. Zoe learns from Aunt Patsy that her name was chosen by her father and means “full of life.” What insight does this give about her father? What else does the reader learn about who this man was? How does what Aunt Patsy told her help Zoe find possibility during difficult times? Do you think that her name suits her?

3. When Zoe finally finds the courage to see the room for rent, Opal tells her, “You have an old soul” (p. 26). What does Opal mean by this statement? Is she correct? Why or why not?

4. Based on what has happened in Zoe’s life after her father’s death, why is the room on Lorelei Street so important to her? Does it meet the need she has for a space of her own? Why does she call it her “corner of control” (p. 112)?

5. Zoe suffers from internal conflict over the decision to move out of her mother’s house. She worries, “What will happen to Mama?” but she knows that “down to her marrow she needs this” (pp. 62, 76). How does she finally come to terms with her guilt about moving out? Do you think she made the right decision?

6. Zoe’s grandmother is furious with her for leaving, and she curses her for not returning to take care of her mother. What motivates Zoe’s grandmother’s anger? What is the result of her anger? Discuss the parts of the book where we see a more tender side of Zoe’s grandmother. How would Zoe and her grandmother each define family?

7. Even though Zoe is repulsed by the sleazy guy at the diner, she wonders if all he wants is to be noticed. “Isn’t that all anyone really wants— someone’s eyes to look into you instead of through you?” she wonders (p. 99). What does Zoe do to get noticed? Is she successful? Why do we feel the need to be noticed?

8. Zoe takes an extreme measure in her desperate attempt to keep the room and survive on her own. What were her other options? What do you predict for Zoe’s future?

9. “I took as much as I gave. Truly,” Opal tells Zoe when they say goodbye (p. 259). What do Zoe and Opal take from and give to each other?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2012


    Its a good book but it swears badly ALOT and talks about awkward stuff.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2012


    Its hard to get into

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2005

    A Great Summer Read

    I read this book for fun this summer. It was the perfect 'beach read'. I enjoyed it very much, and I'm sure other people will too. I usually hate reading and only do it when it is necessary, but I gave this book a chance and it turned out to be worth the read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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