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A Room on Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson

A Room on Lorelei Street

by Mary E. Pearson

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I have found that I am really getting interested in reading YA lately. And that being said, I really hit the jackpot with this one. This book was such an emotional read that at times I felt like I was almost holding my breath. The main character went through so much in her mere seventeen years of living, and her struggle completely broke my heart.

A Room on Lorelei Street takes place in a town called Ruby, Texas. It is a tired, small town full of basically nothing, where Ruby is living with her alcoholic mother as the book begins. Zoe has never really had the chance to be a child. Her father died mysteriously - hinting at a possible suicide, her mother crawled inside a bottle, and her beloved brother is sent to live with her aunt and uncle who have no room for her. Her grandmother is overbearing and manipulative, and Zoe is thrown into a life of being a caretaker to her mother. The author, Mary E. Pearson unfolds this hauntingly beautiful story of Zoe's life with such raw emotion that I will definitely not forget for a long time.

Zoe's life is one that no teenager should have to endure. Trying to take care of her mother, while working at the local diner and attending school proves to be more than Zoe can handle one day when a teacher mispronounces her name and Zoe blows a major gasket. It is at this point that Zoe realizes she has to make some changes if she is ever going to survive this life. She comes upon a house on Lorelei Street where she sees a room for rent sign. She keeps stopping by every day just to dream about the room and what it would be like to have someplace to call her own. One day she talks to the owner, and elderly woman named Opal. Opal is quite a character and I found her fast-becoming my favorite. She talks Zoe into taking the room, and the rest of the story is about Zoe's new struggle of how to make it on her own.

I can't think of anyone who would not fall in love with this story. I was captivated every second until I closed the back cover. It is a beautiful coming-of-age tale of a teenager's struggle to overcome the hand that life has dealt to her. The book is very well-written, and I can definitely understand why the author won the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Golden Kite Award for fiction for this wonderful book. I highly recommend this book. ( )
  kitchenwitch04 | Aug 25, 2013 |
It is an easy read. It really pulls you in and makes you want to figure out where Zoe’s story is going to go. You’ll have hope for Zoe the whole time. I read this book because it was recommended to me and it appealed to me.
  edspicer | May 5, 2013 |
Mary E. Pearson is the author of The Adoration of Jenna Fox, which is one of my favorite books.

This book is right on the mark regarding a child of an alcoholic and the emotions as a result of a highly dysfunctional adult-- the guilt, the anger, the abandonment, the overwhelming struggle of sadness. Writing with this depth of power and knowledge is difficult to portray without experience, and therefore I believe the author might have real life experience regarding this complicated issue.

When seventeen year old Zoe simply can no longer accept the terrible life of enabling and taking care of her alcoholic mother, somehow she finds the courage to rent "a room of her own."

Both mother and father were alcoholics. When her father dies, her mother spins more and more out of control. Responsible for her little brother, Zoe's heart aches when he is taken away and raised by family members who want him, but claim there is no room for her. Left behind, Zoe's grandmother demands that Zoe be responsible for Zoe's mother.

The grandmother is a real piece of work -- a manipulator, a user and abuser. Emotionally trying to thwart Zoe's independence, Zoe remains strong.

This is a wonderful story of hope, of struggle and of courage. Zoe longed for things many children take for granted. She desperately wanted not to pay the bills for her mother. She wanted a mother who could go to work and function. She wanted a parent to attend school functions. She wanted someone to love her, to listen to her rather than self absorption and neglect.

Zoe is strong. She is a survivor. I loved and related to Zoe.

This is well written and highly recommended!

Five Stars ( )
1 vote Whisper1 | Mar 29, 2012 |
A Room on Lorelei Street

The story starts out as we meet Zoe. Zoe is the main character that faces difficult
internal conflicts that most teenage girls don’t even think about. She, like many other
high school students, has a part-time job. However, most have that job in order to have a
little extra spending money. Unlike the general population, Zoe is living off of her part-
time job which is waiting tables at a greasy spoon restaurant, Murray’s Diner. She makes
very little money, so her budget is under more stress than an air traffic controller at JFK
International Airport. With her expenses bursting at the seams, Zoe is forced to drive
with her car’s gas needle pointing at empty, buy extremely cheap food, and cut down on
her cigarettes.

In the very beginning of the book the author makes it clear that Zoe is living
with her mother and her mother only. That wouldn’t be an issue if her mother wasn’t an
alcoholic. As her mother’s drinking becomes chronically worse, she stops going to work
all together. Also, she begins to sleep in the bathroom because she will be vehemently
vomiting throughout the night and into the morning. Zoe makes it clear that she is
anything but happy with her mother. She has basically grown up by herself and is fed up
with her mother’s drunken ways. And att that note, Zoe finds a one bedroom flat/apartment
on Lorelei Street for rent. She inquires about the new housing opportunity and is pleased
with the price point, a mere $150 a month. She thinks it over and then leaves her mom a
note saying, “There is Chinese in the refrigerator. The dishes are done. The utility bill is
paid. I don’t live here anymore. I live at 373 Lorelei Street. I love you, Zoe.” This note
does wonders in describing Zoe. It shows her sporadic and heat-of-the-moment attitude
and her prominent forgetfulness that things do in fact have long-term effects.
With bills piling up, Zoe wonders if living on her own was really her best option.
She had worked half of the month to earn $90, and she neglected to realize she still had
a license plate fee due in the amount of $88. Her month’s rent deadline date was coming
up soon, and it’s hard to pay for that without any money. However, her only option is
to ask a man that she waits on at Murray’s Diner. With the quid pro quo arrangement
implied, Zoe has to make a tough internal decision to have coitus with this beastly, dirt
bag of a man or maintain her chastity and surrender her apartment and her free will.
The ending is full of twists and unexpected events that all wrap up into one unforeseen

I would recommend this book to someone over the age of thirteen. Because of
some explicit language and drug/alcohol references I would not feel comfortable telling
anyone lower than seventh grade to partake in the reading of this book. ( )
  ahsreads | Feb 11, 2011 |
Richie's Picks: A ROOM ON LORELEI STREET by Mary E. Pearson, Henry Holt, June 2005, ISBN: 0-8050-7667-0

"All I know is something like a bird within her sang,
All I know she sang a little while and then flew on"
--Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter, "Bird Song"

" 'You going to stand there, or you going to come up and take a look?'
"Zoe jumps, her cigarette tumbling from her fingers into the gutter. Pay stubs and figures disappear from her vision, and she focuses on the person who appeared out of nowhere. A brown grocery bag is in her arms.
" 'Excuse me?' she says to the wild-haired woman she saw in the garden five days ago.
" 'I've seen you here three or four times now. Guessed you were checking out the neighborhood. You must've figured out by now that we don't have any roving gangs around here--a couple folks whose cheese has slid off their cracker but that's about it. So, you ready to see the room?'
"Zoe thinks the old lady's voice doesn't match her attitude. She is assertive, almost snippy, confident in a crazy, old-woman way, but she is smiling, and her voice is soft, lyrical. It reminds Zoe of a bird.

I'm a sucker for cool old ladies in children's and YA literature. No, not just in literature. I also love knowing cool old ladies in the real world. One of my best friends is a cool old lady who raises Nubian dairy goats up in the Sierra foothills.

I think it all goes back to having had some really great teachers in junior high and high school who were of my parents' generation and who taught me so much about life and about their lives from a perspective that was different than what I'd gotten from my own parents. And it must similarly come from growing up working on my dad's construction jobs with all those old tradesmen to listen to. Those lessons continued into my post-adolescence when I returned to school in my thirties to study early childhood education (where I was usually the only guy in the class) and was taken under wing by a wise veteran teacher: an amazingly cool old lady named Teri Isaac.

Last year when I reviewed TENDING TO GRACE, in which a very cool Great-aunt Agatha helps Cornelia find her voice, I mentioned some other cool old ladies I've adored in books:

Gram from Cynthia Voigt's Tillerman cycle.
Grandma Dowdell from A YEAR DOWN YONDER.
Tilly and Penpen Menudo from THE CANNING SEASON.

Not long after reviewing TENDING TO GRACE I got to meet Mrs. Elia Hurd in LIZZIE BRIGHT AND THE BUCKMINSTER BOY. She's definitely another one for the list. (I'd sure love to know her entire life story.)

"Quietly turning the backdoor key,
Stepping outside she is free."
--The Beatles, "She's Leaving Home"

"The lady rummages through her pocket for the key. 'I still have a few things in there, but I can take them out if they don't ka-nish with your ka-nash.' She slides the key into the lock, and the door swings open."

This particular cool old lady is Opal Keats. The room in that house on Lorelei Street that seventeen-year-old Zoe Beth Buckman subsequently rents from Opal is a dream come true for the girl, given what life at home with her alcoholic mother has been. But this is by no means a sweet fairy tale.

Following step by step (or mis-step) on Zoe's path, I can't help but feel the pressure in my own chest as I experience this young woman's determination to make the personal finances work out so that she can both maintain the control and security that the room on Lorelei Street provides her and simultaneously try to fill her stomach and gas tank, pay the transportation fee necessary for being on the tennis team, and cover the million other expenses that unexpectedly arise when Zoe is finally on her own and determined to keep it that way at any cost. With the steep price that is being exacted by a vicious teacher and a decidedly uncool grandmother, Zoe has no room for missteps.

"The breeze reaches her face, fresh and cool, carrying the scent of night jasmine. She breathes it in. She can't let herself care about worn-thin thoughts, because she has moved on. She is in a room of her own with a brass panther, a stone bulldog, a moon, stars, and an indigo sky full of possibility."

I won't soon forget A ROOM ON LORELEI STREET. Curl up in the window seat and check it out.

Richie Partington
BudNotBuddy@aol.com ( )
  richiespicks | May 22, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805076670, Hardcover)

Zoe's arms prickle. She turns, trying to take it all in. The ache inside returns. It is not for her. It is too much. A real room with real floors and walls. A room for sleeping, and reading and dancing and . . . in her imagination she has pictured the room, but she has never pictured herself in it.

Can seventeen-year-old Zoe make it on her own?

A room is not much. It is not arms holding you. Not a kiss on the forehead. Not a packed lunch or a remembered birthday. Just a room. But for seventeen-year-old Zoe, struggling to shed the suffocating responsibility of her alcoholic mother and the controlling guilt of her grandmother, a rented room on Lorelei Street is a fierce grab for control of her own future.

Zoe rents a small room from Opal Keats, an eccentric old lady who has a difficult past of her own, but who chooses to live in the possibility of the future. Zoe tries to find that same possibility in her own future, promising that she will never go crawling back. But with all odds against her, can a seventeen-year-old who only slings hash to make ends meet make it on her own? Zoe struggles with this worry and the guilt of abandoning her mother as she goes to lengths that even she never dreamed she would in order to keep the room on Lorelei Street.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:04 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

To escape a miserable existence taking care of her alcoholic mother, seventeen-year-old Zoe rents a room from an eccentric woman, but her earnings as a waitress after school are minimal and she must go to extremes to cover expenses.

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