42 Miles

Continuing my light, quick and delightful reads…

JoEllen is the child of a divorce. With her mother, she is Ellen, lives in the city, going to movies and eating Chinese take-out. On weekends, with her father, she is Joey, and lives a carefree life on the farm. It’s hard keeping up a dual life, and shortly before her 13th birthday, JoEllen decides to take charge and not only bring her two halves of her life together, but forge a new one for herself.

This book’s charm, however, isn’t in its plot. It’s written in verse, and while I still have a “thing” about poetry, I’m finding that I manage to “get” novels written in verse. I liked JoEllen’s voice, I loved the poems. I am always amazed that an author, in this case Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, can pack so much into so few words. I also felt that Zimmer caught the feelings of a divorced child (or what I imagine a divorced child must feel, not having experience there myself), being torn between two parents, two worlds.

While I wasn’t blown away with excitement over it, I did enjoy the time spent, and I even managed to come away with a favorite poem, which interestingly enough is about poetry, and which I think captures the essence of the book perfectly:

The Poems I Like Best
The poems I like best
wear classic black
with vintage accessories
and smell like a new book,
and the spine just cracked.
They’re the chitchat overheard on a city bus
or nonsense
volleyed between toddlers
on swings at the park.

My favorite poems
squeeze your hand
on a crowded street and say:

The poems I like best
wear blue jeans
and smell
like the tack room of a barn:
worn leather and horse.
They’re the varied verses
of a mockingbird’s song
or syllables traded between brothers
scratching scruffy chins
over the dark mysteries of an engine.

My favorite poems
hold a wooden spoon of words
and whisper:

(Just for the record: because this is a Cybils nominee, I’ve been asked to make sure y’all know this is my opinion only, and not that of the panel. Thank you.)

3 thoughts on “42 Miles

  1. That’s a lovely poem. I really like the last few lines. I have difficulty reading books written this way, which is probably why I never got into Karen Hesse’s “Out of the Dust.”


  2. I love that poem. I think I could stand reading a book full of poems like that, especially if they work together to tell a bigger story that’s worth telling. Thanks for the review!


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