Title: Nora, Nora: A Novel
Publication Date: 2000
Book Condition: Collectible: Like New
Dust Jacket Condition: Like New
Signed: Signed by Author
Signed by author on title page without inscription. First Edition with full number line. Bookseller Inventory # 10-1-907
Synopsis: I set this story back in my own dreaming, small-town South, in my own time, 1961: that suspended time swung between two epochs that shaped America for good and all. I think I chose it because that turbulent transition was the greatest epiphany of my life, a crossing from the sweet, insular world I knew to another one, volatile and frightening and yet entirely necessary and right. --Anne Rivers Siddons
Peyton is not ready to share her widowed father with anyone, let alone a barely remembered cousin who just rolled into town, a cousin who smokes cigarettes and drives a pink Thunderbird. However, her father seems to like Nora well enough, and she does make for good conversation at the Losers Club, and prim Aunt Augusta hates her, which raises Nora slightly in Peyton's esteem. Maybe she isn't so bad -- maybe Nora is just what quiet Lytton, Georgia, needs this summer.
The whole household is revitalized by Nora's energy, and when she takes a job teaching the first integrated honors class at the local high school, it looks as if she might stay on forever. But soon it becomes clear that something is troubling Nora deeply. Peyton believes that whatever it is, it must be more than the snide comments made by neighbors who don't like her "unsouthern" ways. Nora always laughs that off. It has to be something from her past that's bothering her, something she is running away from. When the shocking truth comes to light, it stuns the residents of their small segregated town. It also teaches Peyton the enormous cost of loving -- and the necessity of doing it anyway.
Review: The young heroine of Nora, Nora comes from a long line of angst-ridden adolescents, stretching back through Holden Caulfield and Frankie Addams to Huckleberry Finn. Yet Peyton McKenzie certainly has good reason to be unhappy. Her household, in the small Georgia town of Lytton, is shadowed by the deaths of her mother and older brother. Her father, meanwhile, has withdrawn into mournful distraction: "When Buddy died in an accident in his air-force trainer, when Peyton was five, Frazier McKenzie closed up shop on his laughter, anger, small foolishnesses, and large passions. Now, at twelve, Peyton could remember no other father than the cooled and static one she had."
To withstand this mortuary atmosphere--not to mention a touch of small-town claustrophobia--Peyton has founded the Losers Club, where she and two other misfits share their daily doses of unhappiness. But everything changes when her cousin Nora shows up for a visit. This jaunty outsider is unlike anybody else in Kennedy-era Lytton, circa 1961:
The first thing you noticed about Nora Findlay, Peyton thought, was that she gave off heat, a kind of sheen, like a wild animal, except that hers was not a dangerous ferality, but an aura of sleekness and high spirits. There was a padding, hip-shot prowl to her walk, and she moved her body as if she were totally unconscious of it, as if its suppleness and sinew were something she had lived with all her life.At first Nora's high spirits have a tonic effect, jogging both Peyton and her father out of their torpor. But her involvement in racial politics eventually rubs some of Lytton's citizens the wrong way--and puts her young cousin's loyalty to the test. Anne Rivers Siddons handles the narrative with a deft touch for local color (right down to the perpetual "three Coca-Colas in an old red metal ice chest"). But her feeling for her cast of characters is even better, mixing just the right proportions of delicacy and Southern discomfort. --Anita Urquhart
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