A life of secrets
Fourteen-year-old Robin is intrigued when a mysterious boarder named Mary Walker moves into her house. Unable to stop herself, she sneaks into Mary's room, reads her diary, and learns that Mary has a husband and two children in another town.
Robin can tell that Mary misses her kids desperately. In an effort to reunite Mary and her family, she befriends Mary's daughter and hatches a secret scheme to bring them together. Then her plan falls apart and the sadand terrifyingtruth behind Mary's story is finally exposed. Robin discovers that her reckless actions have put her in great danger. Now, instead of trying to fix Mary's life, she's got to find a way to save her own!What compels fourteen year-old Robin Lewis to snoop in the new boarder's room and read her diary? Soon she's hatching a well-intentioned yet misguided scheme to reunite Mary Walker's broken family. When the scheme backfires Robin finds that her meddling has put her in grave dangerand she may not escape with her life! 'A sad, powerful story of loves gone awry.' ALA Booklist. 'A realistic look at the pain involved in the problems of divorce, alcoholism, and wife abuse.'Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books.
Author Biography: Pam Conrad wrote many award-winning books for children, including the immensely popular The Tub People and The Tub Grandfather, both illustrated by Richard Egielski. She is also the author of a number of critically acclaimed novels, including Prairie Songs, a 1986 ALA Best Children's Book of the Year and a 1985 ALA Golden Kite Honor Book, and Stonewords, winner ofthe 1991 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Juvenile Mystery.
Read an Excerpt
I'm not sure where to begin. I guess I should start at the beginning of November that year, the day the boarder moved in, although that might not be it at all. Maybe the real beginning was when my parents decided to get a divorce, and my father moved out. Who knows? Who ever said life was simple? Not me. Not anymore, that's for sure.
Anyway, I was in the kitchen the afternoon the boarder was expected. Ma and I had come to a sort of uneasy truce about the whole thing. I was dead set against renting out my old playroom, but Ma said that unless I was prepared to go out and get a job, any decision involving money was up to her. I was only fourteen, and Ma knew I was not exactly in a position to rake in the dough. So there I was, hanging out, and waiting for this boarder to arrive. I was doing a health project at the table about intestines, and my mother was making some of her crazy salt dough baskets that she had decided to give absolutely everyone for Christmas.
"What's she like?" I asked. "Tell me again."
"I told you already. She seems very private. She's quiet, pleasant, and she's a nurse at Mercy Hospital. She says she has all kinds of odd hours because she's new, and she'll get the rough shifts for a while."
"But is she glamorous? Does she look rich? Mysterious?"
Ma didn't skip a beat in her kneading. The big wad of dough rolled and folded and stretched under her hands. It was really beautiful, all white and puffy looking. "Rich?" Ma laughed and rubbed her nose with the back of her hand. "Why would she be renting a room in a house in Rockland Acres if she was rich, Robin?"
"You never know, Ma. Maybe she's some--what's the word?Eclectic? Exotic?"
"You mean eccentric?"
"Yeah, some eccentric rich woman, who is hiding from her father's team of lawyers who are trying to force her to run the family corporation."
"What an imagination you have."
"Or maybe she's a famous journalist from a big national magazine or a TV show, and she's come to spy on the typical American family. She'll hide in the hamper in the bathroom, in the garage, under the dining room table at holiday dinners, taking notes. This nurse thing is probably just a front. I'll bet she could afford to stay in the Garden Village Hotel if she wanted to. She doesn't need my old playroom to slum around in."
Ma just shook her head and went on kneading. "Oh, Robin," she said. She used to say that all the time, "Oh, Robin," like I had a lot to learn, and I was getting on her nerves.
"And besides, what if I want to set up my tent indoors? You know that's the only room I can do it in."
"Really, Robin. When was the last time you set up the tent indoors? Three, four years ago?"
I decided to drop it. I twisted my red rubber tubing into small intestine shapes on the table, and Ma kept pounding her dough.
When we heard the unfamiliar sound of a car pulling past the kitchen window and driving into the back, I peered out and tried to see, but it was getting dark outside, five o'clock and dark already. I hate the winter, always have. It's not the cold, it's the dark.
The headlights went out, and I sat back at the table, trying to look casual amidst the red tubing, the clouds of flour, and lumps of dough. It suddenly occurred to me that this lady might take one look at our kitchen and change her mind about staying. I was hopeful that the giant display box of Camel cigarettes on top of the refrigerator and the picture of Sylvester Stallone Ma had taped to the refrigerator door might give the boarder second thoughts.
We listened to the screen door open and waited for the bell. Then I ran to let her in. I don't know what I had expected, but it wasn't what I saw. She couldn't have been an heiress or a journalist in a million years. She looked more like Gretel, lost in the woods.
"Hi," I said. "I'm Robin Lewis. Come on in."
She put down her two suitcases right there in the doorway and extended her hand to me. She smiled, and I saw that under her lost look she was really kind of pretty. She was younger than my mother, skinnier, and she seemed almost bloodless, she was so pale. "It's nice to meet you, Robin. My name is Mary Walker. Is it okay if I leave my car back by the garage? Is that the best place?"
"Sure," I said, as I picked up one of her suitcases. "Anywhere is fine, just as long as it's off the street by midnight. They give tickets around here." I led her into the kitchen, which despite the weird chaos, felt warm and welcoming.
Ma had washed her hands. She was drying them and smiling. "Hi, Mary. I'm glad you made it before the rain started tonight." They smiled at each other and nodded, a peculiar way I noticed women have sometimes of not shaking hands. It's like there's some kind of unspoken code about who you shake hands with, who you kiss, who you hug, and the rest you kind of nod at. Ma offered her a cup of coffee, and they talked small talk about the weather, the roads in town, and the best place to buy antifreeze before it was too late. I cleaned up my health project and listened. No, she wasn't an heiress or a journalist, that was certain.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is an awesome book that alot of teens could relate to!
This book was for a report and I was going to read the back of the book to pretend that I read the book. Once I started reading the book I couldn't stop and it got better and better as it went on. I recomand this book to teens. You will love it!! Chantel Gray Of Portland, OR
This book was interesting because the characters seemed real and the story was too. You can probobaly relate to some of the issues. I found this book fun and enjoyable to read.