Author: Gail Godwin
Publication Year: 2013
Date Completed: May - 2013
In the summer of 1945, the end of WWII, 10-year old Helen Anstruther is in for yet another change in her young life. Her mother died when she was only 3, and Nonie who cared for her since her mother's death, has recently passed away as well. Her father is still in the picture, the principal of a high school in North Carolina. He drinks too much and isn't someone you could call a nurturer. This summer he will be away to work on a secret project for the government. In his absence, he has hired "Flora", a 22-year old cousin from Alabama to come to care for Helen.
are things we can't undo, but perhaps there is a kind of constructive
remorse that could transform regrettable acts into something of service
summer Flora and I were together every day and night for three weeks in
June, all of July, and the first six days of August. I was ten, going
on eleven, and she was twenty-two. I thought I knew her intimately,
I thought I knew everything there was to know about her, but she has
since become a profound study for me, more intensely so in recent
years. Styles have come and gone in storytelling,
psychologizing, theologizing, but Flora keeps providing me with
something as enigmatic as it is basic to life, as timeless as it is
Helen is not thrilled, a pretentious, know-it-all child who finds fault with just about everything Helen will say and do. Her sense of superiority, vivid imagination, and her self-reliance were, were things about her that I actually came to love. She's a sneaky child who tries to undermine Flora every chance she gets, yet there is something about Helen, maybe her spunk, that made me love her all the same.
In addition to Flora there is Finn, a young Veteran who delivers groceries to Flora and Helen who are confined to a ram shackled mountain lodge by Helen's father, a polio survivor, because of another polio outbreak. Finn provides for some interest competition for his attention.
The story is narrated by Helen in the present as a 70-year old, as she looks back on that summer with Flora came to stay after finishing her education in preparation for a teaching career. Old letters that Flora had exchanged over the years with Helen's Nonie serve to fill in the blanks into the family's past. So it is over the course of one summer that Helen learns the many life lessons that can't always be taught in school. In addition, she realizes Flora wasn't all like the older cousin she thought she was as a child.
Flora, is a terrific story about family, loss and how childhood experiences can impact us for life. I loved this one! This just might make my Top 10 list for 2013. Read it!