Synopses & Reviews
From the widely praised author of The Yokota Officers Club
and The Flamenco Academy
, a novel as hilarious as it is heartbreaking about a single mom and her seventeen-year-old daughter learning how to let go in that precarious moment before college empties the nest.
In The Gap Year, told with perfect pitch from both points of view, we meet Cam Lightsey, lactation consultant extraordinaire, a divorcée still secretly carrying a torch for the ex who dumped her, a suburban misfit whos given up her rebel dreams so her only child can get a good education.
We also learn the secrets of Aubrey Lightsey, tired of being the dutiful, grade-grubbing band geek, ready to explode from wanting her “real” life to begin, trying to figure out love with boys weaned on Internet porn.
When Aubrey meets Tyler Moldenhauer, football idol-sex god with a dangerous past, the fuse is lit. Late-bloomer Aubrey metastasizes into Cams worst silent, sullen teen nightmare, a girl with zero interest in college. Worse, on the sly Aubreys in touch with her father, who left when she was two to join a celebrity-ridden nutball cult.
As the novel unfolds—with humor, edge-of-your-seat suspense, and penetrating insights about love in the twenty-first century—the dreams of daughter, mother, and father chart an inevitable, but perhaps not fatal, collision . . .
"Bird (How Perfect Is That) takes aim at the late-breaking angst of soon-to-be empty-nester Cam Lightsey in her sharp latest. As a lactation consultant, Cam guides new women through their first uncertain days of motherhood, and though single mom Cam (her husband ran off years ago to join a cult) has always been confident in her relationship with her own daughter, Aubrey, a clarinetist in the high school marching band, their bond sours in Aubrey's senior year when Aubrey ditches the band for Tyler Moldenhauer, the quarterback who rescues her from a bout with heatstroke. Two days before Aubrey is due to leave for college, she goes AWOL, and Cam has to face the possibility that all the hopes and dreams she had for Aubrey might not be realized. Told from both Cam's and Aubrey's perspectives, the narrative teases out the ever-deepening mysteries of parents and children as they grow up and apart. Bird's breezy style and spot-on observations of contemporary family life give this headlong story a fizzy energy that carries through to the unexpected conclusion. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From the widely praised author of The Yokota Officers Club,
a keenly felt, wonderfully written novel about love that can both bind family members together and make them free, set in that precarious moment before your child leaves home for college.
Cam Lightsey, lactation consultant, is a single mom, a suburban misfit who’s given up her rebel dreams to set her only child on an upward path.
Aubrey Lightsey, a pretty, shy girl who plays clarinet, is ready to explode from wanting her “real” life to begin.
When Aubrey meets Tyler Moldenhauer, football idol of students and teachers alike, the fuse is lit. Aubrey metastasizes into Cam’s worst teen nightmare: full of secrets and silences, uninterested in college. Worse, on the sly she’s in touch with her father, who left when she was two to join NEXT!—a celebrity-ridden cult—where he’s a headline grabber. As the novel unfolds—with emotional fireworks, humor, and edge-of-your-seat suspense—the dreams of daughter, mother, and father chart an inevitable, but perhaps not fatal, collision . . .
Sarah Bird is the author of seven previous novels, most recently How Perfect Is That, The Flamenco Academy, and The Yokota Officers Club. She lives in Austin, Texas.
About the Author
1. How does Bird use humor to convey character? What about the characters who aren’t particularly funny?
2. On page 14, Cam observes a group of mothers with their young children, “They wanted what we all want: reassurance that they had made the right choices.” Does Cam believe she has chosen wisely? Does Aubrey agree with her? How do Aubrey’s own choices reflect upon Cam’s?
3. Discuss the way Bird uses time—setting Aubrey’s story in one period and Cam’s in another. How do the two timelines play off each other?
4. Cam believes that Tyler is the reason for the friction between her and Aubrey, but how does the secret that Audrey is keeping about Martin affect her rebellion against Cam?
5. “My mother hovered and clung more than any helicopter mom that was ever invented after her. But even she couldn’t control any of the most important events in my life.” (page 50) How does Cam’s distaste for her own mother’s parenting style affect her relationship with Aubrey? Why is Bobbi Mac so important, in contrast?
6. What do Aubrey’s and Cam’s notions of independence and individuality say about their decisions in life? Who seems more comfortable following her own path?
7. Discuss the notion of maternal sacrifice. How are Cam’s and Dori’s sacrifices interpreted by their daughters?
8. Why does Martin allow himself to be sucked into Next? Why doesn’t Cam do the same?
9. Throughout the novel, Cam and Aubrey make assumptions—about each other, about Tyler, about Martin. Why can’t they communicate more openly? Why have they lost each other’s trust?
10. On page 225, Martin tells Cam, “For some of us, being right is so much sexier than sex.” What does he mean by this?
11. How does the revelation about Tyler’s upbringing change your perception of him? What do you think Cam’s response would be?
12. Martin tells Cam she is “a true rebel,” who always knew exactly who she was and what she wanted. (page 264) How does this differ from the way Aubrey sees her? From the way Cam sees herself?
13. Discuss the ending. How does Twyla’s newborn, Aubrey, help Cam to accept her own daughter?
Reading Group Guide
The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group's discussion of The Gap Year, the witty and resonant new novel from acclaimed author Sarah Bird.