Synopses & Reviews
When we first meet Tessie Lockhart in 1958, she is pinning her hair into a French twist, dabbing Jean Naté on her wrists, and getting ready to change her life. This widowed mother of a thirteen-year-old has decided it's time for a fresh start for both of them, time to leave behind Carbondale, Illinois, and the pain of loss. Tessie and her daughter move to Gainesville, Florida, where they discover that they aren't the only ones struggling to move forward in the wake of tremendous grief.
Betsy Carter has perfectly captured both the innocence of the 1950s, when even the complex events of our lives seemed somehow easier to endure, and the startling and irreversible changes of the 1960s. A story about the relationships people develop in the face of loss, The Orange Blossom Special introduces us to a remarkable cast of characters, all of whom are tested--and transformed--by the changes in their midst.
In her own touching and funny style, Carter shows us the unexpected ways in which strangers can become family.
"The title of Carter's sympathetic if somewhat contrived debut novel (she's the author of a memoir, Nothing to Fall Back On) refers to the first New York to Miami passenger train, a not-so-subtle metaphor for the American dream and the forward march of history, as the story hurtles from the late '50s and into the '80s. In 1958, comely widow Tessie Lockhart and her seventh-grade daughter, Dinah, uproot from Carbondale, Ill., to Gainesville, Fla., driven by a very American faith in the healing power of a fresh start. There, their lives intertwine with those of Gainesville's powerful Landy family, as Dinah's popular classmate Crystal Landy and her solemn older brother, Charlie, befriend Dinah. When the Landys' house burns down, killing their father, Dinah and Crystal form a special bond, speaking 'the same language of loss' across the divide of class and social status. Even Tessie and supercilious matriarch Victoria Landy cement a rocky friendship, and over the years, a tumultuous love blossoms between Dinah and Charlie. Carter's plot skips lightly over the passing decades, which are marked by periodic eruptions of changing culture. Each incident of racial strife or Vietnam tragedy feels forced and representative, though, and as the novel barrels into the late 20th century like the titular locomotive, Carter sacrifices character development in her reach for historical import. Agent, Kathy Robbins. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A mother and daughter face the challenges of starting over as strangers in a new place, where they find that despite dramatic upheavals, life still goes on.
Maybe Tessie couldn’t help but hope that by following in the tracks of the Orange Blossom Special— the first passenger train to connect New York to Miami—she and her daughter Dinah would find a kinder climate and a new beginning. The year was 1958 and the young widow could tell just by looking in her daughter’s vacant eyes that a change was called for, indeed necessary. Besides, returning to the spot where she and Jerry had spent their honeymoon might keep him close to her, even if just in spirit.
The Orange Blossom Special is a story about the relationships people develop in the face of loss. And with the social upheaval that shook the 1960s, the friendships formed end up surprising all of those involved.
With a light and compassionate touch, Betsy Carter depicts a mother and daughter who create a family out of the people living at the crossroads—the Orange Blossom Special’s designated rest stop, Gainesville, Florida.
With a light and compassionate touch, the author depicts a mother and daughter who create a family out of the people living at the crossroads during the social upheaval that shook the 1960s.
There's no percentage in hopelessness....You lose hope and what have you got?...Think about it: You moved from Carbondale with a young girl because somewhere inside you thought things could be better. And you came here and you got a job and your daughter is happier and you've met me and tonight we ate Beef Stroganoff. Could you ever have imagined any of this would happen? If you only accept life's bad surprises and don't believe that there are good ones of equal weight waiting to happen, well, then I don't really see what the point of going on is. Do you?
—from The Orange Blossom Special
About the Author
Betsy Carter is the author of Swim to Me
and The Orange BlossomSpecial
. Her memoir, Nothing to Fall Back On
, was a national bestseller. She is a contributing editor for O: The Oprah Magazine
and writes for Good Housekeeping
, New York
, and AARP,
among others. Carter formerly served as an editor at Esquire
, and Harper's Bazaar
, and was the founding editor of New York Woman
. She lives in New York City.