DEAR LUCY, a novel by Julie Sarkissian
Simon & Schuster, 352 pages
Reviewed by Lorine Kritzer Pergament
Everyone is asleep but me.
I look quick in every room to see that nobody is
missing and nobody is. That is good because if someone
is missing I have to leave to go find them and then who
would get the eggs? Because they have never known a girl
who was as gentle with the eggs.
I go down the stairs quiet like I am something without
any weight. I open the door in the dark and the cold sucks my
skin toward it. It is the morning but there is no sun yet, just
white light around the edges.
It is time to get the eggs. Time for my best thing.
So begins Dear Lucy a first novel by Julie Sarkissian, a story about a developmentally delayed teenager whose unique perspective on life can be both endearing and frustrating to those with whom she interacts.
Lucy’s mother, whom we know only as “Mum mum,” after trying unsuccessfully to train her to behave like “normal” children and fearing that Lucy would alienate her new boyfriend, places Lucy with Mister and Missus, an older farm couple who care for girls in trouble. Also living with them is the pregnant Samantha, who befriends Lucy.
Missus always wanted to have a boy to emulate Mister, but when they couldn’t have any child, they adopted Stella, whom they adored. As Stella grew older, and Missus was depressed much of the time, Stella came to spend more time with Mister at the encouragement of Missus, who seemed to have an unconventional plan in mind for the family. There are uncomfortable moments in the telling by Missus, who at times appears both naïve and manipulative. However, as a teenager, Stella ran away, thwarting Missus’ plan. Now she is putting great hopes into the upcoming birth of Samantha’s baby.
Samantha, who has rejected the baby’s father Allen as well as her own family, only wants to run away with the baby and Lucy, but Lucy is afraid that she’ll miss her mother coming to get her, so, with the help of Jennifer (a baby chick Lucy rescued), she tries to find Allen and reconcile the two so that he, Samantha, and the baby can be a “real” family. The story is complicated by Rodger Marvin, a minister who gives bible lessons to Lucy. Lucy is torn between her instincts to find Allen and her fear of not “minding” the minister.
The chapters are variously written from the points of view of Lucy, whose voice opens the book; Missus; and Samantha, a successful device to allow the three characters’ stories to be relayed directly and to allow the reader to get a sense of the competing motives behind the actions of the three. The language of the chapters allows the reader to recognize each character. We get to know Mister through the varying descriptions by the women.
Although Lucy is challenged in many intellectual ways, she knows more than she thinks she does. She “feels” growing things, who speak to her. Jennifer, the rescued chick, at first appeared to be an imaginary friend. But in a scene where Lucy does manage to find her mother, Mum mum is horrified that Lucy is carrying “a filthy creature” in her pocket. It is Jennifer who Lucy thinks is directing her to ignore the minister and to find Allen.
Without revealing too much, I can say that Samantha does have her baby and that the book ends on an interesting note. It is well-crafted and a compelling read, and I hope to see more from this talented author.
Lorine Kritzer Pergament is the book review editor for Signature, a publication of the Women’s National Book Association, and reviews books at www.LorineKritzerPergament.com. She was an F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story Contest winner, and her stories have appeared in Amazing Graces--Richard Peabody's recent anthology of Washington area women writers--Gargoyle, Bridges, and Penn-Union, among others. Lorine is working on a novel, Triangulations, inspired by her grandmother’s experiences as a survivor of the infamous 1911 Triangle Waist Factory Fire.