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A Ticket to Ride

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Set in the summer of 1973, this debut novel tells the story of an insecure and motherless teenager who falls under the dangerous spell of her older cousin.

"It was August. For years it was August. There were pomegranates and wilting patio chairs and long afternoons that seemed seared open. There was heat like wet gauze and a high white sky and music coming from everywhere at...
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A Ticket to Ride

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Overview

Set in the summer of 1973, this debut novel tells the story of an insecure and motherless teenager who falls under the dangerous spell of her older cousin.

"It was August. For years it was August. There were pomegranates and wilting patio chairs and long afternoons that seemed seared open. There was heat like wet gauze and a high white sky and music coming from everywhere at once . . . "

Exiled to Moline, Illinois because of a sexual scandal involving one of her teachers, sixteen-year-old Fawn Delacorte is as sophisticated and confident as her younger cousin Jamie is innocent and insecure. Fawn's worldly ways are mesmerizing, and Jamie willingly submits to a makeover--both inside and out--to win Fawn's approval. But over the course of a summer wrecked with tragedy and loss, Jamie learns what Fawn is really like--she'll use anyone and anything to further her own motives. As Jamie struggles to make sense of her own sexual awakening and desires, she finds herself torn between the young woman she and Fawn have so carefully constructed and the insecure young girl she still feels herself to be. It is only when a local girl goes missing that Jamie really begins to understand how little Fawn cares for anyone but herself, and how close Jamie may be to real danger.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The summer of 1973 in Moline, Ill., is enlivened and permanently marked for 15-year-old Jamie by the arrival of her charismatic, seen-it-all cousin, Fawn Delacorte, in McLain's sure-handed if familiar debut novel (after the memoir Like Family). Abandoned by her parents as a baby, Jamie is a lonely, naïve teenager from Bakersfield, Calif., sent to live with her uncle Raymond after her grandmother falls sick. She falls under Dawn's spell and embraces the dissolute life of layabout teenagers, brushing ever closer to the inevitable tragedy to come. McLain alternates her vivid first-person account of Jamie's initially glorious summer with Raymond's recollections of his fraught relationship with Suzette, his younger sister and Jamie's mother. The echoes between past and present, Jamie and Suzette, and between Suzette and Fawn ring ever louder as the novel progresses, and protectors clash with those they vainly try to protect. McLain has a good ear for the dialogue of hormonally crazed, unpredictable teenagers. But 1970s childhoods are well-trod literary territory, and it feels as if this tale has already been told. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

Adult/High School- Abandoned by her mother when she was a baby, Jamie has lived with her elderly grandparents until recently, when she was uprooted to live with her emotionally detached uncle Raymond. She is 15 in 1973, when her worldly wise cousin Fawn, 16, arrives to spend the summer with them. Insecure and lonely, Jamie loves the idea of having a live-in friend and she immediately falls under Fawn's spell. Wanting more than anything to have Fawn approve of her, Jamie begins to remake herself, and a foreboding sense of the future emerges. Woven throughout the story are flashbacks that shed light on the intense and disturbing relationship between Uncle Raymond and Jamie's mother, Suzette. The parallel stories of Suzette and Fawn shed light on two people who are both disturbed and manipulative. Raymond and Jamie are the victims of the manipulation, but McLain deftly conveys the poor choices each has made along the way. Beautiful writing makes vivid the stark malevolence of Fawn, and the foreshadowing of impending tragedy is so palpable it is frightening. Characters are well drawn and the prose magnificent. Teens will appreciate the dramatic events that lead to tragedy and will ultimately root for Jamie and her uncle.-Jane Ritter, Mill Valley School District, CA

Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Paula McLain has put a poet’s ear to the urgency of adolescence...a strong throb of a first novel.”
Chicago Sun-Times
“…poet and memoirist McLain compels as she excavates two tragedies.”
Katrina Kittle
“[McLain’s] writing is gorgeous, and Jamie and Fawn are heartbreakingly real.”
Ann Hood
“Filled with mystery and longing, McLain lays bare the raw emotion that guides us all...”
Gillian Flynn
“...a haunting coming-of-age story...sun-dazzled prose that hides a cold, foreboding underbelly...gorgeous writing.”
Dan Chaon
“...a vivid portrait of the summer of ‘73...the relationships it expores are timeless...a genuine literary accomplishment.”
Leah Stewart
“...[A] beautifully written book...deeply felt and engrossing—an immense pleasure to read.”
Katharine Noel
“Assured and ambitious... the complicated bonds of a makeshift family... lyrical precision. A deft and haunting book.”
Michelle Wildgen
“Absorbing, tantalizing, and super-heated as an endless summer day.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061340512
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/8/2008
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

PAULA MCLAIN was raised in California foster homes for most of her childhood. She supported herself as a nurses aide, pizza delivery babe, auto-plant worker, cocktail waitress--before reuniting with her mother and at age 21, moving to Michigan to live with her. She then stumbled into a creative writing class and went on to receive a master's degree in English from Central Michigan University and an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan. Since then, she's been a work-study scholar at Bread Loaf Writer's Conference, a resident at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony and the Ucross Foundation, and a recipient of fellowships from the Ohio Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. She has published two books of poetry and a memoir, Like Family: Growing Up in Other People's Houses, which was featured in the "Lives" page of the New York Times Sunday Magazine, O: The Oprah Magazine, Salon, on the Today show, and various public radio shows. She teaches at the MFA Program at New England College and at John Carroll University. She and her husband, a composer, live in Cleveland, Ohio and she has three children.
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Read an Excerpt

A Ticket to Ride
A Novel

Chapter One

Will It Go Round in Circles

O'Hare International Airport was a little like a hospital: glaring linoleum, long hallways leading to other hallways, suspended white lights that seemed to shiver when I looked at them. Everywhere, people walked purposefully between points on a graph, pulling behind them stacked luggage sets or children, their faces hardening and sealing off like drying cement. Watching them, I felt as if I had never been anywhere or done anything worthy or daring or desperate enough. I wanted a destination and something or someone waiting there, holding wilting daisies or a piece of cardboard with my name on it; but we had come for Fawn—Uncle Raymond and myself—to collect this cousin, this stranger. I didn't even own proper luggage, and Fawn was flying at that moment, buckled into a seat I imagined as static, a soft L shape that hung still while all of Illinois rushed toward it.

If nothing else, the girl had a fabulous name—Fawn Delacorte—round and silver as a serving spoon in a velvet-lined drawer. I had been saying it to myself for weeks, practicing it like a slogan or equation, a word problem. When Raymond told me that Fawn would be staying with us for the summer, he didn't elaborate on the reasons. According to Fawn's mother, Camille, the girl was at loose ends. Raymond knew I would be too, with school just let out and him working all day, so why not a companion? But why Fawn would voluntarily leave home to come to Illinois for three months, I found puzzling. A vacation spot or camp, sure, but Moline? And to relatives she had never met? It was a curioussituation, but since I didn't feel I could press Raymond to reveal more, I tried to focus on the windfall aspect of it. I would have a friend right there in the house for the whole summer. Days and days simply waiting to be filled, like the seats Raymond and I walked past on the way to Fawn's gate.

When we arrived, the plane still hadn't landed, so Raymond left me leaning against a wall-length window and walked off to make a phone call. I watched the black announcement board that said "Phoenix 469" for some minutes, but no change seemed imminent, so I gazed out at planes lumbering along the runway instead, their tiny front wheels looking underscaled and overburdened. At some arbitrary point they began to move faster and faster and then rose incongruously into the air the way seagulls did, or objects being levitated. Nosing up and up, they arched into back bends or twisted sheerly to one side. Impossible. I watched takeoff after takeoff, thinking with each that this would be the time the bottom dropped out or the wings snapped clean off, like a mishandled model. But nothing terrible happened, at least not while I stood there.

Who were all these people and where were they going? When they peered out their oval windows, could they see houses and cars and people? Could they see me squinting to see the vanishing last of them? Or were they too busy, too impatient to be there already, wherever there was, like the people who hurried by me on the carpeted concourse, not talking unless they could also be moving: shifting a carry-on bag strap from shoulder to shoulder, digging for dimes for the phone, speeding up to board the moving walkway which counseled, in an electronic bug voice, care in exiting.

Beyond the walkway there was a circular bank of phones where Raymond stood with his back turned, conducting business or pleasure or listening to the weather lady repeat the daily forecast for all I knew. Since I'd come to live with Raymond in November, much of his life—or his person, rather—remained a mystery to me. When I went to school, he went to work. He came home dusty, showered, and then drank one beer while he made dinner, with the kitchen radio tuned to a station that played Three Dog Night and Roberta Flack. In the evenings, he read Time/Life books about the Civil War while I watched Ironside or Mannix on the nineteen-inch black-and-white set in the living room. Then we went to bed, Raymond to his room at the back of the house, I to the makeshift, itchy green sofa in the living room where I'd watch a large carnivorous fish named Felix move back and forth in his tank, his mossy gills pushing mossy water in and out, in and out. The small house always seemed to double in size after Raymond turned in. It filled up with shadows the way Felix's body filled with water; the way my own body filled up with a longing I couldn't even name. Night stretched effortlessly in every direction. Was Raymond already asleep? Was the whole world sleeping?

Things were worse on weekend nights when Raymond went out, sometimes after a hushed phone call that he took in his room, sometimes prompted by his friend Ben at the door with a six-pack of Old Style beer. "Be good," he'd tell me on these nights, but nothing more. I didn't know where he went or what he did once there. I supposed he had a girlfriend or several, but he'd not yet had anyone over to the house. After he left, I'd turn up the volume on the TV, line the coffee table with magazines and paperbacks, fill a glass with too-sweet lemonade, all to convince myself I had plenty to do to occupy myself, but in fact the TV was just a timekeeper. McCloud then McMillan & Wife then Night Gallery as I waited for Raymond to come home. But even when he did and I was still awake, he'd just stand at the lip of the living room for a moment or two, his body rocking lightly to some private rhythm—a song he'd heard . . .

A Ticket to Ride
A Novel
. Copyright © by Paula McLain. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. <%END%>
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Reading Group Guide

READER'S GROUP GUIDE for A TICKET TO RIDE By Paula McLain

1. The relationship between Jamie and Fawn is an intense one, eclipsing all the other relationships in Jamie's life, past and present. What emotional forces bring Jamie and Fawn together? How does Jamie benefit from the friendship? How does Fawn?

2. What does A Ticket to Ride seem to be saying about the nature of adolescent friendships? Are the forces at work in Jamie and Fawn's relationship particular to them, their characters or personalities, or do you think there's a universal quality in their attachment?

4. Although Fawn isn't always a likeable character, are there moments in the book when you identify with her or sympathize with her? Why or why not?

6. In ways, Claudia is Fawn's opposite, offering Jamie real friendship and trustworthiness. Why, then, does Jamie choose Fawn over Claudia? What's at stake in that choice?

9. The principal narrative in the book takes place over the course of a single summer. How does the season itself influence or shape the course of events? Is it possible to say that summer itself becomes a character in the book? How so?

10. When Raymond comes to rescue the girls in Chicago, his concern for their well being seems to wake him up in a way, and he becomes more available, more knowable to Jamie. Why might that be? What's changed?

11. Claudia's disappearance is a keystone moment in Jamie and Fawn's relationship. In what ways do Fawn and Jamie betray Claudia? Sacrifice her?

15. How do you see Jamie and Raymond as complicit in the tragedies that befall them and the people they most care about?

18. The epigraph of the novel from the song"She's Not There" seems to reference, among other things, an element of absence or vanishing in both storylines. How does the lyric apply to the character of Fawn? What about Suzette?

19. At the end of the book, Jamie says she feels as if she's beginning her life again. What might this mean, literally and metaphorically? Is there a way we could see this moment as a new beginning for Raymond as well? How so?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2014

    To below

    Res 4. And you can wear whatever you want.

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Great story, great writing!

    I happened upon this book while browsing in the store & I am so thrilled that I did. I wasn't disappointed in the least. Except that it ended too soon.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2008

    'Ticket'plumbs the intricacies of human relationships

    Kudos for Ticket to Ride! Adolescence is a time when vulnerability is at its peak - and this is the time McLain's book explores. Every reader will harken back to those fragile times as they read the story of Jamie and Fawn, and their tragedy of wrong choices. And many will dredge up memories, as I did, of close calls from bad judgments. And yet, the book is not a 'teenager' book. The parallel story of Uncle Raymond and his dedication to his sister shows a depth of character complexity that puts it on a level with the best in literary fiction. The writing in Ticket to Ride is unusually good - evocative, poetic, but right on target. And I loved the way the suspense built toward the end. I was absolutely shaking with anxiety over the outcome until the last few sentences.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2008

    A reviewer

    Beautifully written, with a super evocative sense of the times--early 70's mainly but also scenes in the mid 60's. I also thought the author really captured that intense first friendship dynamic perfectly. The characters were fresh and individual and the story had a great blend of plot, detail, and lyricism. Highly recommended!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2008

    read this book!

    I found Paula McLain¿s ¿A Ticket to Ride¿ a great discovery, rich in detail and characterization and beautifully written. The central two relationships are intricate and compelling, and we are jarred into self-knowledge through seeing characters act in ways to which we can all too easily relate. Plus, McLain has a poet¿s touch with a phrase, and for anyone who loves language, her imagery is sheer pleasure: ¿It was August. For years it was August.... wilting patio chairs... Dry grass scratched unreadable names into the back of our thighs... a molting feather pillow... rich housewives walking sneezing Pomeranians... Fawn had this effect on all males, no matter the species, as if she were a kind of a virus, or emitted a signal at a male-specific register.¿ And there¿s McLain¿s seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of music and period detail and the sometimes surprising: ¿...the BBs from his Daisy rifle raining down on the green water, skittering then sinking fast.¿ McLain draws us in with her total command of her material, the power of her story, and the richness of her language. Highly recommended.

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    Posted May 12, 2011

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