A young mother’s engrossing memoir of life below the poverty line, where home for her and three small children was a 1979 Subaru station wagon.
Kennedy, who first recounted her story on Salon.com, had been a student at American University and a suburban housewife outside Washington, DC, before she dropped out of the middle class. When her husband quit his white-collar job and moved to a rough cabin in the Maine woods, she followed him and gamely supported their family by working as a bartender. But after their daughter was attacked by a dog while her husband was babysitting, she packed the Subaru with three children under the age of six (one still in diapers) and fled. She drove south to the Maine coast, stopping in Stone Harbor, where she found work as a waitress. Unwilling to tell her parents of her plight, unable to get food stamps or subsidized housing, and unaware of the help she might have received from churches or other charitable organizations, Kennedy, then 24, managed on her own. She made the car their home, putting the youngsters to sleep in the back and taking the front seat for herself. Sometimes they spent the night at the beach and cleaned up at a truck stop; sometimes they slept at a campground, where she made soup on outdoor grills. Kennedy strove to keep the children clean, well fed, and happy, and the details of how she succeeded are fascinating. Fortunately, by late summer she managed to save enough of her tips to put down a deposit on an apartment and move her family into it. The friends she made, the babysitting help her coworkers gave her, an affair and a new job also enter into her story, but the heart of this account is the author’s love for her children and her determination to keep her family safe, sound, and together.
Frightening yet heartening—perfect movie material.