Shoshanna Ebersole, her mother, and her sister have just escaped a hippie commune run by her manipulative father, Adam. Being on the run is liberating. Shoshanna, Ella, and Mara are finally free from Adam's grip. But Adam's never far behind. "He has radar" as Ella would say. With Ella's physical and mental health ailing, Shoshanna is uncertain where their stories will end. But she's determined to survive long enough to find out. Sometimes you have to believe that the life you could have must be better than the life you do have.
|Publisher:||Whitman, Albert & Company|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 18 Years|
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The year was 1972; the month, June. Alongside the car, the full moon seemed to be chasing them, flying along the telephone wires, slicing through the tops of the trees. Closing her eyes, Shoshanna rested her head against the cool metal of the car door. They had been driving since early morning, stopping twice—once for gas, and once so that she and Mara could pee, squatting uncomfortably in the brambly scrub grass behind a tree at the side of the road. She couldn't figure out which ached worse, her head or her stomach. How long had it been since they'd eaten? There was that bowl of granola for breakfast, but she'd had to dump it over the porch rail because the milk was clotted and sour.
Mara was asleep, slumped sideways like a rag doll, her tangle of gold hair spilled across the seat, rib cage rising and falling with each soft, snuffly breath. Shoshanna touched her fingertips to her sister's shoulder. Mara stirred slightly, scratched her nose, and murmured something about pancakes before sliding back into sleep.
Shoshanna knew not to ask her mother where they were going or how much longer they would be driving. She turned to look at the moon again. So, this was freedom. She could hardly believe it. After months of conspiring, they had escaped. Never mind that Sweet Earth Farm—clinging like a burr to the outskirts of Cave Junction, Oregon, population just under two thousand—had been the only home she'd known for the past five years, since just before she turned ten.
Never mind that this meant leaving her father, Adam, who just the other day had stared into her eyes, the same deep, unfathomable brown as his, and told her that she would be nothing if not for him. He gave her life. Never mind that the three of them were making their escape from Sweet Earth with hardly any money and no long-term plan. The fact was, she knew that they would be better off just about anyplace else, because with the ever-presents—the hunger, the violence, the drugs, the chaos—things had gotten badly out of hand.
Shoshanna, Ellen, and Mara had long harbored the intention of escaping. At night, hunkered down on their lumpy mattress (found abandoned on the side of the road outside Portland; they considered themselves lucky), the three of them whispered sedition before falling asleep. During the day, they hatched and re-hatched plans in the orchard when they were alone, sorting and crating apples while the other Sweet Earthers smoked dope in the clearing just down the hill.
Southern California, Ella told her daughters, was the land of sunshine, orange groves, and Disneyland. To Shoshanna and Mara, southern California sounded like paradise. How could life be anything other than perfect in a place like that? But first, they had to get out, which was not going to be an easy thing to pull off.
For one thing, Sweet Earth Farm was smack-dab in the middle of nowhere. It was thirty miles to Grants Pass, the nearest real town with shops and a post office and a library—thirty hilly and perilous miles at that, bumping along a rutted, narrow road. There were only two working vehicles at the commune: the ancient pickup truck they used to bring Sweet Earth's crop of organic apples to the farmers' market on the weekends, and the station wagon. Anyone who wanted to use the wagon had to ask days in advance and most of the time had to share it with Sweet Earthers going roughly the same direction at roughly the same time.
Shoshanna remembered when she'd gone into Grants Pass with Adam and eleven other people and two dogs. Adam needed a hash pipe, so she went along for the ride, all of them packed into the car like sweat- and patchouli-scented sardines. They were let out in front of a dilapidated house that doubled as a makeshift head shop. The others went about their various errands and started back to the farm, forgetting Shoshie and Adam, who had to wait outside in the rain, chilled to the bone and miserable, for four hours, which was how long it took for the others to get home and realize they'd left them behind. Adam had been so pissed off that he kicked a hole in the car door and didn't speak to anyone for two weeks.
But today, so far, the Plan seemed to be working. The particulars of their exit came to Ella seemingly overnight. One morning she told them to get ready, that they'd be leaving in two days. She had all figured it out. Ella told the others that she had to take the girls to the free clinic in Ashland because they had worms. She told the girls to scratch their butts in the meantime, for the sake of authenticity, and both girls set to scratching with dramatic gusto.
No one on the commune wanted worms, so they were quick to tell Ella to take the car and keep the girls the hell away from them. Ella promised to have the car back by noon. They would stir up suspicion by packing, so Shoshanna and Mara put two extra layers of clothes on under what they were wearing and grabbed any small items that they couldn't bear to leave. They didn't have much.
Mara took her pink blanket and a small, pink vinyl pocketbook with a broken clasp, crammed with old crayons, elastic bands, and some bits of brightly colored turquoise and lapis lazuli left over from the jewelry Ella made. Shoshanna had an ancient, illustrated copy of Kipling's Just So Stories that had been dumped into the trash after the flea market a few weeks before and an intricately tooled leather barrette, left behind by a teenybopper who was just passing through. At the last minute, she grabbed a color snapshot of their family from four years before, when things were maybe not okay, but better. She was standing and Adam was behind her, his sinewy arms wrapped tight around her, his bearded face resting on her head, and Mara was a chubby towheaded toddler safe in Ella's arms. That was it.
Ella packed a paper bag with contraband: a whole loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter and half a box of raisins. She even filled an old milk carton with water and left it under a bush next to the car, with the intention of throwing everything in at the last minute when no one was looking. But when Reed and Alex, two of the newer members of Sweet Earth, walked toward the car as she and the girls were trying to get in, she knew she couldn't risk it. Food was scarce at Sweet Earth Farm. Shoshie had once heard Adam threaten to cut off some guy's hand because he'd taken a bag of potatoes. (According to Adam, "That's what they do in Thailand, man.")
Even a small amount was not something you could casually walk away with. They would have to eat at some point though, and Shoshanna could see the panic in her mother's eyes, followed by feverish survival strategizing. Keeping her voice calm, casual, she asked Reed and Alex for money to cover the doctor's visit ("Do you have any bread on you? Adam's good for it. I just need a couple of dollars, man."), but they shook their heads, snorting derisively.
"The clinic's not called 'the free clinic' for nothing. Do you think they expect you to pay? Damn, Adam's right. You are a stupid cow." That's what Reed said, looking into the backseat at the two girls. His gaze lingered on Shoshanna, who played with the lid of the ashtray, while Mara gave her butt a theatrical scratch.
"Yeah. I guess so." Ella looked away. Shoshanna had watched her mother stop standing up for herself a long time ago. She understood. Back talk led to trouble. Ella got in, shutting the door on her long, gauzy skirt, then sighed as she reopened the door, rescued the skirt, and slammed it shut again. "Okay. Ready, girls?" She turned to look at them with a mix of terror and triumph, and in that look they felt the full weight of the moment. Turning back around, squaring her shoulders, and taking a deep breath, she started the car.
"So, you say you're gonna be back by noon?" Reed shouted over the noise of the engine. He pulled a cigarette from his pocket and motioned for Ella to hand him the lighter from the dashboard.
"Yeah." The lighter popped out, coils glowing, and she handed it to him, waiting as he took a drag and exhaled extravagantly into the open window, into her face. She waited for the smoke to clear before answering. "Maybe before. I guess it depends on if there's a wait at the clinic."
"If the line's too long, forget it. Melaya probably knows some kind of homeopathic way to get rid of worms. She's into that kind of herbal remedy shit. She's supposed to be back from Corvallis tomorrow. We just need the car soon, man. Will has to get into town when he comes down from his acid trip to score some peyote for Adam, and you don't need me to tell you that it's not a good idea to keep Adam waiting to get high. Man, worms. Bummer, huh?"
He looked at Shoshanna again, eyes traveling from her dark brown hair to her long, field-tanned legs. "Hey, Shosh, maybe this'll teach you to keep your fingers out of your ass." Alex grinned. "You too, Sunshine." That's what everyone at Sweet Earth called Mara, "Sunshine," because of her wild yellow hair and ear-to-ear grin.
"Uh-huh," Shoshanna murmured. Reed gave her an uneasy feeling that started in the pit of her stomach and traveled up her spine. She did her best to avoid him. Now that the engine had started, Shoshanna felt bold enough to look at both Reed and Alex straight on, to see them for what they were: two skinny-hipped, thin-lipped, squinty-eyed lowlifes in patched jeans and dirty work boots. She was thinking that if she never saw them again in her life, it would be too soon. Her mother backed the station wagon out, then turned and drove slowly down the rutted dirt road. None of them looked back. They sat staring straight ahead, silent, holding their breath until Ella turned the wheel sharply right and they were on the paved road. "Do you think we're going to be okay, Ma?" Shoshanna asked, her voice a whisper.
"I think so. If the car doesn't break down. We have enough gas to go a decent distance. Three quarters of a tank—that's better than I expected. I have ten dollars here that we can use to buy more."
Mara let out a huge whoop. "We're free, we're free!"
"Shhh," Ella said, but she was smiling too. "Adam has radar." Suddenly, she let out a big whoop herself. "O-kay. Man, it does feel good, doesn't it? Real scary, but real good. My heart is pounding. Damn." She shook her head and started laughing. "If they find us, they'll kill us."
Shoshanna shook her head. "Nah. What do they care? Yesterday Adam told me and Mara that the dog was worth more than us two put together. He wasn't even talking about the new dog. He meant the old one with the goopy eye and three legs. No one's gonna miss us at all, Ma. Not Adam. Not anyone."
"They might not miss us, but they'll sure as hell miss the station wagon." She laughed, popped in the cigarette lighter, and shuffled around in her worn canvas knapsack for her Marlboros. Shoshanna noticed that her mother's fingers were shaking. Lighting up, she sucked in a lungful and exhaled, then tapped the steering wheel nervously. "We have our work cut out for us, girls. We have our work cut out. I think you two better sit back. I'm just going to keep on driving."
Eight hours later found them on the interstate somewhere in southern Oregon, traveling south through the night, destination unknown. Shoshanna looked out the window and saw only the road ahead, the moon rising overhead, and dusk beginning to settle on either side. Her mother yawned.
"Are you tired, Ma?"
"Maybe we should pull over somewhere, so that you can rest your eyes or something."
"Yeah. That's not a bad idea. I'm about to pass out. We have to find someplace where the cops won't hassle us, though. Maybe we should take the next exit and see if we can find someplace to stop for the night."
Turning off the highway, she paused at the end of the ramp. To the left or to the right? Either direction looked equally dark and foreboding. "What do you think, Shosh? I'm not getting any vibes here."
Ella and Shoshanna believed in vibes. They believed in vibes like other people believe in God. Shoshanna closed her eyes and tried to feel something. "Go right."
"Okay, baby." The road was lined with towering pine trees on either side, and Shoshanna was beginning to question the accuracy of the vibes when finally the woods came to an end and a cluster of one-story buildings appeared. There were streetlights and a gas station, a row of shops and a small wooden building that she figured was a church since it had a steeple. Ella turned into the church's driveway and circled around to the back parking lot. Aside from an overflowing dumpster, the lot was empty. "This looks like a good place to stop. You can't see the car from the road. We'll take off when the sun comes up."
It felt good to stop moving. Ella curled up in the front seat, knees braced against the steering wheel, and Shoshanna tucked herself alongside Mara, who continued to slumber soundly. "Night, Ma."
"Ummm?" Ella murmured, hovering on the blurry divide between waking and sleeping.
"Are you scared?"
"Scared that they're going to catch us?"
"That, and I'm scared that we're close to broke and we have no food, and I don't know where I'm going or what I'm going to do when I get there."
"Don't worry, Ma. It'll be okay. Don't you remember the Plan? The Plan. Drive south to California. First San Francisco, then Los Angeles. Disneyland, oranges, beaches, and sunshine. Remember?"
"Yeah. I remember." Ella sounded suddenly fretful. "It's just—I don't know, Shoshie. I just gotta get us there. I gotta get us there. It's me that has to get us through the day-to-day part, in this junky car with no money. Planning is one thing. It's fun. It's like make-believe. This is life. This is real."
"I can help you, Ma. You know that. I always do." But Ella had already fallen asleep.
Shoshanna thought about what her mother had said. The day-to-day part. That this was real. What had sounded like a wonderful adventure, their whispered words lying in bed at Sweet Earth, now sounded tedious and difficult. Even worse, it sounded like something Ella wasn't sure she could do. Shoshie knew she'd have to work hard to keep her mother going. She also knew there was no going back. She had watched Adam kick a dent in the car door. She had watched him do other things that were way worse.
It seemed as if Shoshanna had just closed her eyes when she felt Mara tugging at her shoulder. The rising sun painted the worn gray upholstery shades of apricot and gold. "I'm hungry, Shosh," Mara whined. "Thirsty too. I keep thinking about pancakes."
Shoshanna struggled to sit up. Where were they, anyway? Looking out the window, she saw the church, which was a ramshackle sight in the harsh light of day, with its peeling paint and sign that said "Divin avior Methodi urch. Spen your unday with s." The parking lot was still empty. She could see the backyards of small, boxy houses with sagging clotheslines and chain-link fences. They were a good distance away, beyond the edges of the parking lot and across a set of overgrown railroad tracks.
"Look, Mare," she said, making her voice sound much more enthusiastic than she was feeling. "We're in a cute little town. Maybe we can stop somewhere and get something to eat."
"My tummy hurts," said Mara. "I'm so hungry. I don't like this."
"I know. Me too, Mare. Ma?" Shoshanna leaned over the seat and poked her mother's back gingerly. "Ma? I know you're tired but it's morning. We got to get going."
Ella groaned and sat up, smacking her elbow on the steering wheel. "Ow. Damn." She rubbed her elbow and looked out the window. "Where do you think we are? This is still Oregon, right?"
"I guess so. We're in a church parking lot."
"I'm hungry, Ma," whined Mara. "And thirsty."
"Yeah, I know, Mare. Join the club. Only problem is, I don't have any money. Not for food, anyway. All I have is the ten bucks I'm gonna need for gas. Hey, look on the floor and in the seats. Maybe there's some change or something." They searched, wedging their fingers into the gully between the seat bottom and the seat back, scouring the gritty, sticky floor, snapping open every ashtray. They found thirty-six cents plus a Canadian nickel that they might be able to use if some store clerk wasn't paying close attention.
"Not bad." Ella seemed to perk up slightly. "We should be able to get something with that. We'll stop at the next gas station to use the bathroom and get some water. Gas stations usually have vending machines. We can pick up a couple of candy bars or something."
Excerpted from "Disappear Home"
Copyright © 2015 Laura Hurwitz.
Excerpted by permission of Albert Whitman & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Great sense of suspense, really interested in the premise. Loved the characters.
Shoshanna Ebersole, the daughter of two hippies, has never had a normal life, after a lifetime of abuse at the hands of her father, the commune leader, Shoshanna’s mother Ella along with her sister Mara decides to run away from their abusive life to rebuild their lives somewhere else. I really enjoyed this story, more than I had expected actually. It’s a great story with characters that you really want to like, although unfortunately I was never immersed into the story or with the characters. If I read a book I want to be emotionally involved with the characters and honestly I really didn’t care what happen to Shoshanna and her family, I cared more about the supporting characters than the protagonist and her family. Although I didn’t dislike them I just don’t feel that the characters or the plot was too realistic. For starters the all of the characters were way too modernized, I would have never known that it was set in the 70’s the only clues were the occasional “man” or references to “Big brother”. In my opinion all of the characters were a little too mature, Shoshanna and her sister Mara acted older than their years, while their mother was the only immature character in the book and they all were a little too adjusted to life outside of the commune. To me if the characters are born and raised inside of a commune with limited contact with the outside world they shouldn’t be familiar with what a tv is or junk food, and maybe I’m nitpicking the story but it did have quite a few issues. Overall I enjoyed this story even though it had many flaws and was predictable. I’m not sure if I would read another book from this author but this story has awakened my interest in the hippie movement of the 70’s and reading more historical fiction. I received this E- Arc from Netgalley and Albert Whitman & Company in exchange for my honest review. No compensation of any kind has been provided in exchange for my review.