Sunday, July 20, 2008

One Whole and Perfect Day by Judith Clarke

This story starts out rather slow, first with a thorough description of the main character, Lily's, family. It then goes on to describe how Lily is "the sensible one in the family". She seems to be the only one who can be relied upon to take care of things around the house, get the groceries, and take care of meals, regardless of the fact that her mother is perfectly capable. But her mother is distracted and usually stressed by her work, and Lily knows that if she wants something done, she has to be the one to do it.
As the story moves along, we meet others who are in some way connected to Lily, who will be important to the story and its finale. These include Lily's sometimes-racist grandfather and her grandmother who speaks constantly to an old friend that she hasn't seen in decades. However, Nan speaks to this friend as though she was standing right next to her, all the time. We also meet Loni, Lily's ne'er-do-well brother, who was recently kicked out by their grandfather. This is actually a good thing, and Loni is trying to do well now that he is on his own. We meet college students who are friends of his, and then we meet their parents.
All of these characters have important roles to play in the drama that unfolds around Lily's desire to have one whole and perfect day. She simply wants a day where her family behaves like a normal family, like they all get along and love each other. Because she knows that they love each other, it is simply difficult to get them all to behave. Lily focuses her sights on the birthday party that Nan is planning, wishing for that to be her perfect day.
This is a very enjoyable book, very satisfying in the way all of the pieces come together. The characters learn a lot about themselves and each other as the story moves along - they learn about racism and prejudice, responsibility, and even love. And Lily learns what it means to love your family for who they are, and that every day can be that day she is striving for.

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