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 betterso 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.
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)
Read an Excerpt
A ROOM ON LORELEI STREET (Chapter One)
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 inor 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.