SINGING WITH THE TOP DOWN by Debrah Williamson


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A young girl deals with her parents’ death while driving with her aunt from Oklahoma to California in this work of spiritual uplift from romance novelist Williamson.

In 1955 Tulsa, Pauly is orphaned when her parents, manic-depressive Gracie and good-hearted but irresponsible Johnny, who is always moving the family to avoid paying the landlord, die in a rollercoaster accident. A tough-talking, precocious 13-year-old, Pauly feels guilty that she was angry at her parents moments before their deaths. She worries what will happen to her and her younger brother Buddy, a frail polio survivor who wears a leg brace. No one in the family wants to take them in until glamorous Aunt Nora shows up from Hollywood, where she’s supposedly been working as a movie extra. Aunt Nora has a big car and plenty of money. She offers to raise Pauly and Buddy and drives them back to California on what she calls “The Daring Adventure of Us,” a camping vacation/road trip. Although Pauly is suspicious at first, Aunt Nora wins her over with alacrity. Within a week, Pauly has adjusted to her parents’ deaths and is ready to accept Aunt Nora, who displays her generosity and upright morality in several incidents along the way. Soon there is another passenger. Tyb is a former ranch owner who has escaped from a retirement home with his dog Puppy. At first, Buddy’s friendship with Tyb threatens Pauly, but nothing in this story is ever too threatening. Even when Pauly and Nora are almost kidnapped and raped, the tone remains reassuringly comic. Once in California, Pauly’s biggest challenge comes when she discovers that Aunt Nora’s wealth is derived from real estate and realizes that landlords are not always the enemy.

Pauly’s voice has some charm, but even 13-year-olds might find the story cloyingly innocent and optimistic.

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 2006
ISBN: 0-451-21926-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: NAL/Berkley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2006