by C.C. Payne
True confession time: I’m a retired woman, on a budget in a town of 600 people with a teeny library. To feed my book habit, I enter EVERY contest I can find. Every Single One. Most times I am unaware of the author, and often don’t even bother to read the book description. There was over a year of my life when a brain injury meant I was unable to read, and once healed I vowed to read like a maniac. So, I contest like mad.
I won The Thing About Leftovers and eagerly began the book several days ago. A few pages in, I became suspicious and started looking closely at the book information. I was saddened when I read: Penguin.com/Young Readers Ages 10 up.
FYI, I am way up past 10 years old.
But, I’d won the book, the author had kindly personalized it and mailed it quickly. I determined to stick it out. I figured at 52 I could read faster than a 10 year old and would zip through to ease my guilt.
A funny thing happened….I became absorbed. I actually read it in two days, not to get it over with, but because I couldn’t put it down.
Payne wrote a novel with a compelling main character, Fizzy, a sad young girl who had her life ripped from her when her parents divorced. Mom relocated to another town. Dad found another woman. Fizzy became the new student (outcast) at an unfamiliar school. Most teachers were uninterested, old friends abandoned her, Mom began a new relationship and Fizzy was lost. Leftover from an old world, unsure of her place, feeling unloved, this is the story of pain, loss, rebuilding.
The Thing About Leftovers punched me in the gut.
I lived much of Fizzy’s life. My mom was married and divorced three times. There were multiple dads among the siblings, and by marriage number three I was one of the last remaining kids at home. I had the stepfather who moved in and took over. I lost my older siblings who fled and remained away for decades. The only other sibling who stayed was drinking at 19, an alcoholic in his 20s and dead at 37. My purpose as a youngster was to be the peacemaker. To make people laugh. To be good and not cause problems.
My entire childhood was fractured and upon my parent’s deaths I was freed and packed away (much) of that pain. I worked very hard to create a different life for my kids where they were loved unconditionally and my marriage was strong and filled with joy.
Payne crafted a novel which caused me to remember. I remembered through Fizzy and I cried. Several times I actually had to stop reading because I felt so much pain for a fictional character, and for me who had forgotten how hard my childhood was all those years ago.
I am sure my reaction to Fizzy’s mom is much more vitriolic than the author intended, but I felt anger any time she was in the story. Every “yes, ma’am” uttered by Fizzy hurt me. Even though the book ended on a positive note, with some moral (hopeful) lessons for other readers, this reader hurt and felt lots of discomfort.
I am glad I won this book. I am glad I’m polite enough to have stuck with it because the catharsis was liberating. It’s amazing how much I’d packed away and completely forgotten. It says a lot about the writing skills of the author that she was so spot on describing the angst experienced by many of us during our formative years.