Sunday, August 28, 2016
After writing a series of memoirs (“The Third Floor,” “Dreamscape In A Minor,” and “Rita’s Road”) Chicoan Judi Loren Grace takes a novelistic turn in “Meadowlark” ($16.95 in paperback from Stansbury Publishing; also for Amazon Kindle).
It’s a compelling family saga spanning decades, told mostly by a woman who seemed to have the ideal marriage. Her husband Jim, “my security and friend,” is successful in the stock market; the couple, restless, “relocate to a small town called Dunsmuir and semi-retire.” Their daughter, Dana Bea, is headed to college.
In Dunsmuir, “my boring life magnifies and morphs into a lovely locked cage,” even as she reminds herself to “stay in the shadows … always glide through life unnoticed and detached. It’s the safest route.”
Tragedy strikes. Jim dies in her arms of a heart attack. Dana Bea is a frequent visitor and early in 1984, life for mother and daughter will take another unforeseen turn. A toddler is being abused in a neighboring house.
Later, when Dana Bea has left, her mother encounters the angry father searching for his child. Then she finds the toddler, a two-year-old, lying in the snow. She shelters the little girl and so begins a life of paranoia, a fear of being arrested at any moment for kidnaping a child. The girl is given the name Jessica, and Jessica later calls her savior “Nettie” (for being a safety net).
Dana Bea secures a fake birth certificate and the two make plans to move with Jessica to the coast and start afresh. There Nettie meets Sam, a former Texas Ranger, who helps shield Jessica from prying eyes. But is he just a plant? “With a pounding heart, I try to keep my fear in check. Worrying this is a trap.” Paranoia grows.
“We were not longing for adventure. Dana Bea and I closed our eyes and dove in head first, and in doing so we both did a full swan dive into a life of crime.”
Yet “Jessica is worth saving and protecting, and I will go to the ends of the earth to keep her parents from getting her back.”
The meadowlark sings, unseen, a peaceful song. But will peace ever come?