Aura’s mother has not been well, but this new episode drives the middle portion of the book. Grace’s tornadic behavior—trying to keep the world spinning with her feet, a frenzy of fire and paint and loud music—has a similar whirlwind effect on Aura’s life. She’s missing classes, trying to teach herself to drive, dodging adults’ questions, making excuses, shedding her friendships, all as she gets wrapped up in this constant battle to keep her mother safe.
The water imagery isn’t as prevalent, but Grace remains a force of nature; one of those ugly facts that appear with no rhyme or reason. Not unlike tornadoes, really. I’m from Oklahoma and have experienced countless tornadoes. To me, they are as typical as Grace’s madness is to Aura. When J first came to Oklahoma, he woke me up in the middle of the night, panicked. There were tornado sirens! The weathermen were on TV without commercial interruption! Doppler shows these scary swathes of red and orange!
I dragged myself from bed; studied the TV map; shrugged and went back to sleep. We aren’t in the path. It’s springtime. This happens. I know what it is to stand in a field under a black-green sky and see that angry freight train down the path. This is normal and I’m not afraid.
But just because we’re familiar with terrifying forces doesn’t make them any less destructive. Neighbors in Joplin and Moore—I am so sorry, and I am thinking/hoping/praying for you.
Aura, too, accepts her mother’s madness even as she searches for ways to end it; she refuses to turn to doctors, medication, family. She has opportunities to turn to her father and her grandmother and her friends but she turns them down. Her best friend, Janny, sees what’s happening; sees the way Aura pretends it’s okay; and refuses to take part in the charade.
How do you feel about Aura’s reaction to her mother’s episode? What about her mounting dread that this sickness (which she deems interchangeable with creativity) lies dormant in her, too?
P.S. If you want to help victims of this year’s tornadoes, the wonderful folks at Help Write Now held some awesome auctions, but those have all closed; they do, however, still have links to great places to donate directly.