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A and B C the Coast

I’ve actually been rocking and rolling through books this summer, and this one’s a good one. I actually sat at the Hubbard Avenue Diner for over two hours finishing it, and was nearly in tears by the end. It was a random pluck from the shelves at the bookstore, Allie and Bea by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Allie and Bea: A Novel by [Hyde, Catherine Ryan]

Cover photo (Amazon.com)

I expected it to be a sweet and sappy story, a la Jennifer Weiner or Jodi Picoult. It was, and yet it wasn’t. Before reading Allie and Bea I was not familiar with Catherine Ryan Hyde but I’ve already gotten another of her books out from the library.

This book is a Thelma and Louise story for the twenty-first century. It starts when Bea, an elderly widow from Southern California who is out of luck and out of money after falling victim to a scammer. She packs her cat and a few possessions in her van, and drives away from her old life with no real destination. Meanwhile, not far away, fifteen-year-old Allie’s luxurious life collapses when her parents are arrested for tax fraud and she is sent to a group home. With the help of a friend who turns out to be not such a good friend, Allie escapes the group home and winds up on the side of the road. In desperation, she throws herself in front of Bea’s van in the middle of the night, hoping to attract her attention. Bea agrees to let her spend the night with her in the van, but after hearing Allie’s story and getting to know her, ends up letting her stay, as her unlikely travel companion. Together, they travel north through California, Oregon, and Washington, learning more about each other, themselves, and what has been missing from their lives. Their past (well, Allie’s at least) catches up with them in the end, but it turns out neither predictably nor completely absurdly.

This book kept me captivated right from the start. Hyde does a great job describing places and situations, and her characters are special; not perfect, in fact quite flawed, but they’re the kinds of characters you sort of dislike in the beginning but turn out to root for in the end, and not in a forced way. Bea seemed like a grouch in the beginning, and Allie seemed to bee too perfect, but as the book went on, their characters developed in a way that made them more alike than different. Their adventures on the road were fun and unpredictable, and in a way, it was a journey of healing, the further they got from Los Angeles and the more people they got to know and places they got to experience, from the twisty roads of the Oregon coast to the rocky shores of Washington state.

The ending was probably the best part. I won’t tell you what happens, but I’ll tell you what doesn’t happen. One predictable ending: Bea and Allie betray each other and part ways, never to see each other again. Second, even more predictable ending: Bea becomes so endeared with Allie that when the feds catch up to them, she adopts her and they legally become a family. Neither of these things happen, which is really refreshing. The ending is a mix of sad and happy, but overall provides a satisfying close to their adventure.

Oh, and third predictable ending: Bea and Allie don’t die in a fiery car crash or soar into the Grand Canyon.

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Just A Quick Update, Random Stuff, and Things

Well hello out there, readers of the Internet.

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged that I feel like I don’t even know where to start anymore.

What I’m not going to start with is my life right now; it’s kind of chaotic and stressful. Even though I’ve got a relatively fun and exciting summer planned, it’s going to be a summer full of work. Work on my writing, work on my reading, work on…finding work. Basically, more work than Rihanna can sing about.

As I look around my apartment right now (I guess I’m staying in and getting real, in a way, even though I was out until about an hour ago), I see remnants of my semester, just strewn around. A pile of papers on the floor, along with some books from sales and the dollar store. Some plastic bags, my green scarf, and my red jacket. Folded clothes, folded towels, unfolded clothes, unfolded towels. All my winter gear, lying in a heap on the futon, like a coat room at a party. A small air conditioner blowing lightly because it’s really hot in here. Receipts, dryer sheets, bandanas, dust. Stuff that belongs to me and stuff that does not belong to me.

What’s great about life? Hard to say in certain moments, but as I think about it, the answer is time. I have now and I have later. This random thought might not make sense in the morning, but basically, I’m just feeling like the last line of Memoirs of a Geisha, “even a stone can be worn down with enough rain.”

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And The Twelve Points Go To…

So, one of my secret/not-so-secret obsessions (secret in the fact that no one in America knows what it is or cares about it, but not so secret in the fact that if you ask me about I can go on and on until the cows come home) is the Eurovision Song Contest, or simply, Eurovision. It’s cross between reality competition and musical train wreck, treasured by few and despised by most, unless their country is in the final.

Today, for the first time ever, I watched it live on YouTube from Lisbon, in the hopes that Israel would pull off its first win in twenty years. I turned it on about midway through the performances, but it was the voting that made me literally shake. The jury voting came in, and Israel, despite being labeled as a contender this year with a genuinely catchy and unique song, was in a distant third behind Austria and Sweden. I was feeling pretty meh, but then the popular vote came in, and unlike the American election, it actually mattered in crowning the winner. I held my breath as one by one, the front-running countries got their votes. Once Austria, Sweden, and Germany were knocked out, I was feeling hopeful for Israel. It wasn’t until the final 4 countries’ popular votes were coming in that I realized that statistically, it was highly unlikely that Israel would come anything but first. And then, it happened…the winner of the fan vote was announced to be Israelpropelling its representative, Netta Barzilai and her song “Toy” to the top, and subsequently, the winner of the whole shebang. She tried not to try as she went up to the stage to accept her trophy, make a short speech, and perform a reprise. Oh, and this also means that Israel (most likely Jerusalem) will host the contest next spring.

What does this mean? Well, not a whole lot, but it does mean that music won out over politics this year, and of course, that my prediction (and hope) came first. The second placer, Cyprus, kind of grew on me, and I wouldn’t have minded if Eleni Foureira bagged Cyprus their first win.

Now that the competition is over, here are the rest of my top five favorites: Czech Republic had a sick sax beat with a hook and a fun music video, and coming in sixth was very respectable. I was also partial to Spain, which is perfect for a Viennese waltz, and, unpopular opinion: Moldova. The Latin-esque rhythm really got me going. Songs that I tolerated but wouldn’t write home about (if one wrote home about a song competition across the Atlantic) included DenmarkFinlandFranceNorway, and Sweden. These would probably actually round out my top ten.

Of course, with 40+ countries, not all songs make it, and about half of them fall by the wayside. Last year, Macedonia (The Former Yugoslav Republic of) submitted “Dance Alone,” and as soon as I heard it, I replayed it about a hundred times and then downloaded it onto my iTunes. I was sure it would at least make it out of the semi-finals. I was shell-shocked that “Dance Alone” ended at the semi-finals. This year, my “Dance Alone” Award went to…Belarus. Their song, “Forever,” would have probably been in my top five had it made the final.

In any event, congratulations Netta, and Israel. Next year in Jerusalem!

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Flip the Script Friday: Tim Kelly, The Uninvited

And after a month way too busy for words (as evidenced by the lack of entries), I’m back. I don’t know how much I’ll be posting, but it’s Friday the 13th, so I thought it would be appropriate to bring back Flip the Script Friday with a selection from 13 Plays of the Ghosts and the Supernatural. Today’s selection? The Uninvited by Tim Kelly.

The Uninvited Logo

Photo credit: Somerset Valley Players

The Basics

The Uninvited is based on a novel by Dorothy Macardle. It was made into a movie in 1944. Interesting facts (about the movie): the screenplay was written in part by Dodie Smith, and it was apparently “the first movie to deal with ghosts as entities rather than illusions or misunderstandings.”

Characters

  • Stella Meredith, an 18-year-old who owns a country house, for some reason.
  • Commander Brooke, her grandfather.
  • Pam, a woman who, along with her brother, looks at Stella’s house and eventually buys it.
  • Roddy, Pam’s brother
  • Lizzie Flynn, their maid. She’s Irish, but for some reason I pictured her as a sassy black lady like Leslie Jones. She has the best lines.
  • Wendy, an actress and medium who is a friend of Pam and Roddy’s.
  • Max, a painter and friend of Pam and Roddy’s.
  • Mrs. Jessup, a nosy neighbor.
  • Dr. Scott, a doctor of some sort.
  • Miss Holloway, Stella’s nurse who is incredibly creepy.

Setting/Plot

A house on a cliff in Cliff End (western England), “the present.” Keep in mind that this play was written in the 1940s. The entire play takes place in the drawing room of a country house. Stella is selling the house, against her grandfather’s wishes, to Pam and Roddy, who come with their sassy maid, Lizzie Flynn, AKA the true star of the show. Weird things happen right from the start, when Pam feels a chill in a random part of the room. Strange goings-on at their housewarming prompt the four friends (Pam, Roddy, Max, and Wendy) to investigate the mysterious deaths of Stella’s parents, Llewellyn (a painter), and Mary (whose portrait hangs above the fireplace), at the possible hands of Carmel, a Spanish woman who lived with them as well, when Stella was a baby. Wendy leads the group in a seance, which brings some spiritual activity, eventually revealing some truths about the Meredith family. Oh, and in the end, Pam suggests that Roddy write a play about everything that’s happened, which is a major eye-roll moment.

Major Themes

Lights, Smells and Sounds

A creepy old house wouldn’t be complete without flickering lights, odd smells, and random noises. In this case, the light is a night-light that comes from the nursery where Stella was raised, in addition to a weird glow around the portrait of Mary; the smell is that of a distinctive mimosa; and the sounds of crying, and a music box. The spirits are very much present, possibly linked through their artifacts, despite no one in the Meredith family currently residing in the house.

Art and Soul

The centerpiece of the play is a painting of Mary Meredith, the former matriarch of the Meredith family who died mysteriously, and whose painting Pam desperately wants to give Stella. Commander Brooke, for some reason, staunchly refuses that it be moved, to which I’m like…wow, it’s not even your house so stop micromanaging. Many of the arts are represented, including theatre (Wendy, an actress); literary (Roddy, a writer), and visual arts (Max is a painter. We never really find out what Pam does for a living). Wendy, Roddy, and Max have the most in common with the spirits. Although it’s Wendy who leads the seance and gets possessed, and Max who recognizes the woman in the mysterious sketch Roddy and Pam find in the house, it’s Roddy who eventually faces the spirits head-on.

How I’d Flip It

It seems like a pretty interesting living room drama, akin to Blithe Spirit. It would need some retooling in order to see it in “the present,” but it might work. The special effects would be fun to work with, especially with the color blue, and the very descriptive scene where Stella sneaks into the house and communicates with the spirits of the dead, in a very Poltergeist “they’re here” moment.

The Last Word

Of course, Lizzie Flynn has the best line of the play:

LIZZIE: What sort of heathen mischief are you up to now?

WENDY: We’re hoping to make contact. (LIZZIE looks grim).

LIZZIE: With whom, may I ask?

MAX: Mary Meredith, we think.

LIZZIE: (Dubious) She’s going to come out from wherever she is and talk to you, is that it?

WENDY: It doesn’t happen that way…

LIZZIE: I wouldn’t know.

WENDY: The spirit will spell out things with the glass.

LIZZIE: What if the spirit don’t know how to spell? (Knock at the front door. LIZZIE is cynical about WENDY’s efforts.) Maybe that’s Mary Meredith. (she exits)

Image result for leslie jones ronda banks

Photo credit: Bella Bronson/Getty Images