Sunday, August 03, 2008

Juggling Multiple Points of View

It’s hard enough to juggle one or two balls in the air, never mind four, but that’s exactly what Barbara O’Connor does in her newest novel, Greetings From Nowhere, spinning a tale from four different points-of-view with the dexterity of a master juggler.

How does she do it?

Here are the four points-of-view from which the story is told:

* Aggie, an elderly widow who can no longer keep up the Sleepy Time Motel in the Smoky Mountains that she bought years earlier with her husband, Horace, and decides to sell it.

* Willow, whose mother Dorothy recently walked out on Willow’s father to live with her sister in Savannah, leaving Willow and her father alone.

* Loretta, a girl who has never met her birth mother (her "other mother," as she calls her), and receives a package from her after her death filled with keepsakes that offer hints to who she might have been and where she might have gone.

* And Kirby, who is being sent to a school for unruly boys where his mother and step-father and father hope he’ll learn to control his anger and improve his behavior.

It’s Aggie’s decision to sell the hotel that sets the story in motion.

When Willow’s father sees the ad in the paper, he decides to buy the motel, hoping to start a fresh life.

At the same time, Loretta receives a box from her "other mother," and one of the keepsakes in the box is a charm bracelet with charms from different places. As a way of helping Loretta imagine what her mother might have been like, her parents decide to take her to a handful of places .. and the first charm leads them to the Smoky Mountains and the motel.

Just as Willow and Loretta are setting out for the motel, so too is Kirby and his mother. When their car breaks down by the motel on their way to his new school in the mountains, they have to wait there for Kirby’s father to send them the money so they can repair the car and get on their way.

Ultimately, all the characters end up at the motel, and the four different points of view converge on one another, and the individual plot-lines build into a larger story as each character struggles with his or her own problem.

That’s the back-story of Greetings From Nowhere, but it doesn’t begin to describe the rich relationships that O'Connor develops between the children... or the unexpected affection the children feel for Aggie or that Aggie feels for them.

It’s as if each child–and Aggie, too–finds at the motel, if only for a short time, the family that they yearn for most, even Kirby, who arrives at the motel and crosses out the heading on one of the post cards that he steals from the motel office, changing it from “Greetings from the Smoky Mountains” to “Greetings from Nowhere.”

By the end of the story, Kirby no longer feels like he’s nowhere but someplace quite special, which is how I feel whenever I open one of O’Connor’s books.

She’s that rare author who can create characters with voices so distinct and pure that they linger in your heart long after you turn the last page.

For more on juggling points of view, visit:

For more on Barbara O’Connor, visit her website:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love this story, too. Just ordered two copies -- one to keep, one to give.