Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB
My mother was named Margaret Elizabeth, but I never knew her to go by Margaret, or any of its wonderful permutations: Maggie, Meg, etc. In fact, she didn’t go by any of the changes to Elizabeth either—it was always full throttle: Elizabeth. And she loved movies. She felt very connected to two famous Elizabeths: Queen Elizabeth, who named her son Charles—my brother, almost exactly the same age, is named Charles. And she loved Elizabeth Taylor. So, when I saw Lu Ann Brobst Staheli’s book entitled Just Like Elizabeth Taylor, I knew I “just” had to read it.
Liz, named Elizabeth for the movie star, becomes Beth when she runs away from home. How will this young girl, not yet a teen, make her way on her own? Actually, a lot better than she can do at home where her mother is too weak to give up the boyfriend who beats her, and Liz cannot fend off the boyfriend’s loathsome son.
Plucky girl that she is, she steals some money from the “boyfriend,” and runs away—but only as far as a fairly nearby town. She finds an abandoned shack at a winter-deserted K.O.A. place, where she manages to have bathroom/water/ electric amenities, ekes out her meager “savings” with school lunch and occasional lunch leavings from other students.
As the school year draws closer to an end, “Beth” must find a way to make a friend, save a lunch lady, let her mother know she is still alive, find a more permanent home, and bring justice to her “real” family, while maintaining a decent GPA so she won’t be “found out.”
At every moment, I was aware that the author had taught junior high school for years: she knew the angst, the failures, the desperation of some, the heartlessness of others, and the pluck of the brave. Just before the ending I was in tears: not because it was sad, but because I was so angry at what happened to “Beth” next: pulling all the threads together, the horrific scene had me crying for the unfairness, the drive, the caring this young girl exhibited. It was a fitting triumph, finally.
I know Liz, the lost girl. I know Beth, the loner. I know Elizabeth, the winner. I’ve taught those high school, junior high school and middle school kids too. Read it, and you’ll know them as well!
See you day after tomorrow for Monday Moans!
BTW, the prolific Staheli also has a book, A Note Worth Taking, about “best” friends, surviving lost friendships, making new friends—you know, all those things we suffered in junior high or middle school. I’m reading it next—you should too: it’s on sale at Amazon for $0.99 through the end of July.