Ten-year-old Cass can’t wait for her mother to return from a four-month-long disaster rescue trip, but when she finally does, it’s a bitter disappointment.
Cass and her father have tried to adapt to Toodi Bleu Nordenhauer’s frequent absences: “My dad tries to fill in the empty part of the pizza when the Mom slice is taken away.” But this time Toodi’s leaving Alabama for good—not for a disaster but for a stranger named Ken. Who needs rescuing now? Emotions are raw and real here—it’s genuinely painful to witness Cass’ denial-heavy response to her mom’s sudden exit, as well as her ice-cold view of her well-meaning father. The story perks up considerably when Cass and her dad hit the road in a dumpy RV called “The Roast” (“more Ritz cracker than Ritz-Carlton”). Her once–scorn-worthy dad is full of surprises, including his transformation to M.B. McClean, traveling purveyor of soap shavings allegedly owned by historical figures from Abraham Lincoln to Clara Barton. With the power of “Sway,” those heroes’ finer qualities are passed along to the washer. Cass’ reactions to Sway and to her “new father” are fascinating and utterly credible, as is her evolving perception of her wayward mom.
A linguistically playful heart-wrencher about healing, love, forgiveness and the power of believing in something good, whether it’s old soap or your own family. (Fiction. 9-12)