A Ticket to Ride

A Ticket to Ride

4.3 10
by Paula McLain
     
 

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In the long, hot Illinois summer of 1973, insecure, motherless Jamie falls under the dangerous spell of her older, more worldly cousin Fawn, who’s come to stay with Jamie and her uncle as penance for committing an “unmentionable act.”

It is a time of awakenings and corruptions, of tragedy and loss, as Jamie slowly discovers the extent to

Overview

In the long, hot Illinois summer of 1973, insecure, motherless Jamie falls under the dangerous spell of her older, more worldly cousin Fawn, who’s come to stay with Jamie and her uncle as penance for committing an “unmentionable act.”

It is a time of awakenings and corruptions, of tragedy and loss, as Jamie slowly discovers the extent to which Fawn will use anything and anyone to further her own ends—and recognizes, perhaps too late, her own complicity in the disaster that takes shape around them.

“A captivating story about a teenager’s struggle to be accepted by her peers. . . .  The story is more than believable—it simply comes alive. The book perfectly captures the free-spirited attitude of the decade and the curiosity of adolescence.”—Tampa Tribune

“McLain compels as she excavates two tragedies.” —Chicago Sun-Times

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.)

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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

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.”
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.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061870330
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/13/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
79,047
File size:
1 MB

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%>

What People are saying about this

Gillian Flynn
“...a haunting coming-of-age story...sun-dazzled prose that hides a cold, foreboding underbelly...gorgeous writing.”
Leah Stewart
“...[A] beautifully written book...deeply felt and engrossing—an immense pleasure to read.”
Ann Hood
“Filled with mystery and longing, McLain lays bare the raw emotion that guides us all...”
Katrina Kittle
“[McLain’s] writing is gorgeous, and Jamie and Fawn are heartbreakingly real.”
Michelle Wildgen
“Absorbing, tantalizing, and super-heated as an endless summer day.”
Dan Chaon
“...a vivid portrait of the summer of ‘73...the relationships it expores are timeless...a genuine literary accomplishment.”
Katharine Noel
“Assured and ambitious... the complicated bonds of a makeshift family... lyrical precision. A deft and haunting book.”

Meet the Author

Paula McLain received an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan, and has been a resident of Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony. She is the author of two collections of poetry, two novels, and a memoir, and lives in Cleveland with her family.

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Ticket to Ride 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
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.