The Lauras

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Nov 2017

Member Reviews

This unique coming of age novel follows Alex as they and their mom travel from town to town crossing long awaited to-do's off Alex's mother's bucket list. From the first page they are on the move, running away or toward something unknown to Alex. 

The premise is nothing new, following a young kid as they learn about themself and their body, about the world and their own mother, but what is interesting about this novel is that the character does not have a gender, and though Alex does struggle with it at one point, it's never a big deal, something the main character has to come to terms with or overcome. It's just a part of their identity, and is, for the most part, totally accepted. 

It's nice to read a book about a non-binary person that doesn't focus on that aspect as a main plot point, but rather just a characteristic of the character. However, I felt that the book moved too quickly for the most part, and overall I didn't feel any lingering emotions about the book. 

It was an entertaining read, but I don't think I would ultimately purchase this book or recommend it to a friend.
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Sara Taylor takes readers on a road trip to find her past and help her teenager sense the present in "The Lauras." The fictional work finds the teen roaming the country with her mother after her mom flees in the middle of the night. Along the way, they learn about themselves, each other and what role others play in their world. The dialogue stays fresh, and you can feel the angst of a teen with too many questions and not enough answers. As for Ma, you'll cheer when she finally feels safe in her own body and secure in her own mind. Don't be surprised, though, if you feel the need for a road trip when you finish this novel.
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✪ I resisted starting The Lauras because of its title, mistaking it for another entry in the crowded girls-in-jeopardy genre. Face: red. In fact, Sara Taylor’s affecting novel is about lives unmoored from convention and security, and its narrator, Alex, is a gender-fluid teenager whose mother uproots them one day without warning. Are they on the lam due to some ominous marital secret? Will Alex solve the questions of her/his family inheritance, and the restlessness that drives Alex’s mother’s continual flight? The character’s voice propels us forward, and Taylor’s portrait of a burgeoning sensual “creature” is both familiar and wonderfully alien. That Alex never tells us what gender s/he came into the world as is a mystery that messes with our preconceptions in instructive ways. As for that title, it turns out to be a resonant metaphor, perfectly chosen.
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Excellent novel that is about two parallel journeys of discovery -- a mother's and that of her young teenager, Alex. Following yet another fight with Alex's father, Alex's mother leaves in the middle of the night with Alex to embark on a coast to coast drive with multiple purposes that eventually unfold. The author uses beautiful prose to tell the story of Ma and Alex, and does a masterful job, in fewer than 300 pages, of describing to the reader the series of parallel events and encounters that motivate Ma to embark on her journey and that operate to help shape Alex into young adulthood.
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As it seems many are (based off of other reviews I perused), I am have a difficult time deciding on my rating for The Lauras.  I was compelled to continue to read because I wanted to find out where the road Alex and Alex's mom took actually ended.  Not only was the road travelled an actual road trip, but it was also a journey through each other's lives.

I may not have agreed with the approach Alex's mother takes in finding her own way - taking Alex out of school, living on the road, letting Alex learn life's lessons at age 13.  However, the story told was one of discovery and it was Alex's mom's own way of teaching that we read about.  My own judgement or expectation should not effect how I rate this book. 

The Lauras was about the desire to not conform to society's current standards. And maybe not just desire, but more a lesson in the fact that the majority of us don't always realize that there is a certain conformity expectation. It's more of a unmentioned assumption or rule of life. 

What I took away from The Lauras is that it is absolutely unnecessary to have answers to questions that we take for granted.  Alex never revealed a gender type.  Nor did Alex have any desire to offer any clues to a gender.  So what do we care? Maybe I did in the beginning when I started reading this book. I admittingly looked for hidden clues.  There were none.  And by the end of the story, it didn't matter if Alex was a boy or a girl.  Alex was on a journey to discover who they really were.  I truly appreciated the stripped down approach that this story offered.  In order to live our best selves, it doesn't matter what category we fall into.  Or which diploma we graduate with.  Or any other kind of societal markers that show where we fall in some sort of order.  As long as you do what your heart is telling you what to do, you will be happy.
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Thirteen year old, Alex is used to hearing parents fighting at night. Alex could always tell when a fight was coming and would always stay awake until everything calmed down. But everything changes on a night when the fight breaks off midway.

"Get up, Alex. Now"

Alex's mom comes in and pulls Alex right from bed and settles them both into the car with nothing more than the comforter from Alex's bed and the packed backpack that was sat by the door for years. Alex knows not to ask any questions and is quiet as mother drives away.

And here starts a journey that takes place over a three-year span as mother and child travel all across America and even into Canada. Even years later, Alex can clearly remember the moment they left home and how Alex knew that life was never going to be the same.

"The tipping feeling, of everything I knew and thought and trusted being pulled out from under me, has stayed with me for thirty-odd years, as if she branded it into my skin with her fingertips when she dragged me out of the house."

Alex's mother was never very open about her past. Alex was aware of a few things, like the fact that she had been in foster homes, but other than that she had been very tight-lipped. So Alex is happy when mother starts to share stories and details about her past - this includes stories about the " Laura's " she met over the years.

I did have a few issues with Alex's mom's parenting. At times she seemed almost cold to Alex, but then something would happen that made me realize just how much she had Alex's back. She never judged and was completely supportive of Alex. It made me wish that more parents would be as respectful of their children.

I found the beginning of the novel gripping, then it stalled on me for a little while. However, about halfway through something happened that pulled me right back into the story. I was intrigued to see where things were going to go. In the end this was an enjoyable read. I found myself quite invested in the characters and the story-line.

THE LAURAS was a well-written and interesting read. A kind of coming of age story for both mother and child. The novel deals with a lot of important issues including relationships, sexuality, bullying, parenting and much more. I look forward to reading more from Sara Taylor.

Thank you NetGalley and Hogarth Press for providing an advanced readers copy of this book for me to read in exchange for my honest review.
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A pangender teen goes on a cross-country trip with her mother. Interesting at parts, non so interesting at others. It was a fairly enjoyable read, but I'm not quite sure what the reader was supposed to take away from Alex's odyssey.
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The Lauras was a very interesting, informative, emotional and entertaining read that I sped right through. I was mesmerized by this tale of a mother with an agenda and an agender (I had never heard of this before which makes this book, informative) teenage daughter. 

I was mesmerized by this book from the very beginning. The mother's agenda, unknown to anyone else, was quite quirky and interesting. She had quite a few things on her list that took her all over the country.

Her teenage daughter, Alex, amazed me with her maturity at such a young age and her ability to see her real "self" at such a young age astounded me.

The book was very emotional and said a lot about the characters in a very minimal amount of words. As I said, I was into this book from the very beginning and sped through enjoying the story immensely.

Thanks to Crown Publishing and Net Galley for providing me with an entertaining and free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
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on goodreads

I almost put this novel down about one fifth of the way through, thinking - ugh - not THAT coming of age tale again - but I continued. Ultimately, the quality of the writing captivated me. I seem to have read several "mom on the run" sagas, but this one was different. More realistic, I think. Nothing is sugarcoated, and I can embrace the "female empowerment" theme here which is much more subtly done than the Q of LGBTQ. I really like it, and I would recommend it. It's a more challenging "on the road" story than most, just for its stark reality, humor, and dialogue.
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Hmm… what to say about a book that I really enjoyed at the beginning, annoyed me in the middle, and ended just okay?

I think my biggest issue was that it seemed like the author couldn’t decide what story to focus on. I felt that the mother’s history, including The Lauras, was integral to why she and her child were on the run, but then the stories of the Lauras started to dwindle and we started hearing more about Alex. Alex’s story was interesting as well, but seemed like it existed separately, or deserved its own book. 

I wondered for a while in the second half why the book was called The Lauras; none had been mentioned in a while and I thought the story meandered a bit too much, but then it came back around near the end. It was an interesting way to wrap up the idea of The Lauras but it seemed rushed and a bit anticlimactic.

It’s a good road trip book but read it lightheartedly and don’t expect closure on questions you may have.
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In the middle of the night, Ma pulls thirteen-year-old Alex out of bed after one too many arguments with Alex’s father. Alex is dragged to the car, and the two of them set out on a road trip with no explanations. Alex only ever saw her as Ma, but suddenly she becomes a real, complex person with a rich, dangerous past. Mother and child follow a cryptic map of Ma’s childhood in foster care and as a teenager on the run – they travel across the United States and eventually to Canada, keeping old promises and tying up loose ends from Ma’s tumultuous past. 

The story is told from Alex’s perspective, and it is complicated further by Alex’s own coming-of-age story – Alex is gender neutral, identifying as neither male nor female. The novel contains a realistic and sensitive portrayal of Alex’s sexual awakening – Alex is undecided yet unconfused about gender identity, and surprisingly self-assured for such a young person. Alex’s identity develops alongside Ma’s past, highlighting the contrasts between the two stories. The pilgrimage to the past is necessary to move forward and face an uncertain yet hopeful future.

Ma’s past includes several women named Laura, hence the title – the Lauras are friends, mentors and lovers, but all of them are an integral part of the mother’s development. Each location to which she brings Alex requires the telling of stories and secrets that complicate Alex’s view of Ma. However, after years of travel and life on the run, Alex also has unfinished business to attend to, including a reconciliation with the father that was left behind.

Both Alex and Ma have lived hard, heartbreaking lives – but their reactions to life’s struggles showcase strength and resilience. The mother is tough, gritty and often seems insensitive, but she supports Alex completely. Their entire journey is an exploration of identity, and it questions how much of who we are comes from a parent, and how much comes from lived experiences. Alex has always been gender neutral, but Ma’s stories and support allow Alex to be completely secure and comfortable with the decision to not be just a boy or a girl. 

There are many complex stories to be told on this journey, and they are sometimes overwhelming or distracting from the main narrative, or seemingly told as a vehicle to interject certain beliefs into the novel – but mostly Ma’s digressions are interesting and worthwhile for Alex’s development. The language is stark yet emotional, with lyrical prose that finds beauty even in the darkest moments. I completely enjoyed this immersive journey with Alex and Ma, both of whom are the kind of characters we need to read about in the world today.

I received this book from Crown Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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THE LAURAS was strange for me. A mother and child hop in the car and go on a road trip, leaving the father so Ma can repay her debts. I was left wondering if Alex was a boy or a girl. I wanted more from this one.
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3.5 stars. What an odd book The Lauras is. I really liked many parts of it. The story is essentially a road trip told through teenage Alex's voice. Alex -- who we eventually find out does not identify as a boy or girl -- goes on a two year road trip with Alex's mother. Along the way, Alex's mother pieces together her life for Alex. There are many stories spliced together and separately many of them held my attention. Both Alex and Alex's mother have had more than their fair share of gritty heartbreaking experiences. But I wouldn't describe The Lauras as heartbreaking. Somehow Alex and mother have strength and resilience in spades. Taylor is a skilful writer and she clearly loves to push many boundaries. My minor complaint is that at times it felt like she was trying to fold too many identity issues into this fairly short book. I liked Alex. I even liked his mother who could be quite harsh. But at times they lost their dimension as characters and seemed to become vehicles for identity politics. Again, this is a relatively minor complaint. Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Lauras. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
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Contemporary Fiction
Alex’s mother hits the road in the middle of the night after a final fight with her husband. It’s not the first time she has taken off, but this time it’s with pubescent Alex, who struggles with Ma’s decision to leave without telling Dad where they are going. It is the start of a years-long journey crisscrossing the United States as Ma reconnects with significant people and places from her past, settling debts and scores and fulfilling long-ago promises. The title refers to the Lauras Ma has known throughout her life, giving Taylor a useful device for slowly revealing key events in Ma’s own story. The book is narrated in the first person by Alex, some 30 years hence, though it is set in this century. The reader slowly comes to realize that Alex’s gender is never revealed, and we eventually learn Alex is gender-neutral. Within this novel, this life decision simmers in the background, only occasionally erupting into a big problem as Alex ages from about 13 to 16 over the course of the story. It is a testament to Taylor’s accomplished writing that this is never an awkward issue; it is truly enjoyable to see how Alex, Ma and Taylor all handle the matter! I will say it was a sobering reflection for me, as a reader, to realize how much gender plays into my understanding of a story. I was probably 15 or 20 pages in when I found myself flipping back to the start to see if there were clues to Alex’s gender, and not finding any, forcing me to confront my own biases as I read through this brilliant novel. As Alex explores a burgeoning sexuality and physical attractions, does it matter if the sexual organs are inside or outside the body? Does a punch in the face hurt more if you are a girl? Is a sexual assault more or less offensive based on the victim’s sex? Wow. And while Taylor effectively causes the reader to ponder such questions, she is also revealing how challenging life is for both Alex and Ma as they set temporary roots and then take off again once coffers are filled, or once Ma has accomplished her goal. Alex slowly finds independence in a life that is deeply dependent on Ma’s goals and whims. And over time, as all children do, Alex comes to realize that Ma is a person in her own right, with her own stories and experiences that she shares on her own schedule. Despite being the narrator for the novel, Alex’s role is as the biased hearer of Ma’s stories. In the same way, Alex gets to tell this story, and it is the reader’s perspective that will influence its interpretation. Though it is at first glance a coming of age story, The Lauras is best appreciated by an adult reader. Older teens will find much appeal as well, though I suspect they will return to this book in later years, after a bit of life experience can provide a more nuanced understanding. Highly recommended. My thanks to Crown Publishing for the advance reading copy provided through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
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Having read some impressive reviews on her debut effort, The Shore, I was eager to fall in line and anxiously awaited the release of Sara Taylor's sophomore novel, The Lauras. In case this post is too long for you to read, what you need to know is that it definitely did not disappoint and I am certain that I should now read The Shore. 

"Usually when a person looks back they have to reconstruct, invent, guess at what was said or felt or smelled. That twenty-four hours, starting with the moment we left home, was burned into my memory. Even now, years after, I can’t forget the grease and smoke, the flannel on skin, the fear of realizing that my life was taking a ninety-degree turn."

Allow me to back up for a moment, though; prior to beginning this novel, I perused a few of the reviews that had already been posted online, which I rarely do, and began to notice some feelings of defensiveness, like I needed to make a stand for one of the characters and/or for the author. While I'd been having doubts about whether I should take the time to read this novel, after hearing the initial reaction of a trusted friend, this dominating emotional response motivated me to take a chance and form my own opinion. 

The novel is, at its most basic, a story about a mother, Ma, and her teenage child Alex, who set off on both a physical and metaphysical journey; as they travel around the country, escaping what has been left behind, they are each learning from one another and learning more about each other. What you do not need to know is Alex's gender; much like an unnamed narrator, Alex's biological gender is never revealed by the author.

"Knowing someone’s sex doesn’t tell you anything. About that person, anyway. I suppose the need to know, how knowing changes the way you behave toward them, the assumptions you make about who they are and how they live, tells an awful lot about you."

Many readers seem to be conflicted about this omission. Part of me is appreciative that I was aware of this before I began reading; another part wonders how my experience of the story might have been different without that knowledge but, now that the novel has been released, it would be pretty tough to miss. 

I believe that Alex's gender is left to wonder because it highlights the fact that, in today's society, many of us struggle with the unknown. Many of us struggle when the answers we expect are not given, when the path is undefined. Both Alex and Ma are on an undefined path, both of travel and in life, and Taylor's ability to draw all of these elements together is astounding. The more I think about this story, as each day goes by after having finished it, the more I uncover; I have revisited highlighted passages multiple times. 

"It’s rare that you get finality to things, the way we like our books and movies to end. Life so often goes flabby and peters out at the finish point instead of clicking satisfyingly, like the sound of a box being shut. That’s why we read, and watch, and listen, because we want that click and life never hands it over."

There is so much more I could write about, so much more to say about this novel, but I'd rather encourage you to read it and then let me know about your own experience. I've always believed that this is the job of a great author: to create a message, a story, that resonates with everyone in powerfully different ways. Go forth and read!
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I give The Lauras by Sara Taylor 3.5 stars. Ms. Taylor's prose is rich and descriptive - I loved it! 

Told in first person by Alex, age 13, sex and gender identity unknown, who is taken from his/her bed in the middle of the night by Ma who decides it's time to take a road trip to get away from Alex's father. Alex at first finds it an adventure, but hiding out, never staying in one place very long, and yearning for home soon arise. Ma seems to be on a mission to revisit places and people who impacted her life and Alex is along for the ride whether he/she wants to be or not. "I love you too much to leave you behind!" While I never questioned Ma's love for Alex, I do question her judgement. A coming-of-age story, a road-trip saga, a mother-child relationship theme, it's all here. Why the 3.5 star review then? Because as beautifully written as the book is, midway through the book it just seemed rambling to me. 

Note: This book has graphic sexual episodes and readers averse to this should avoid this book.

Many thanks to Netgalley & Crown Publishing for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
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The Lauras is a great coming of age story and the importance of the mother/daughter bond!
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This novel really deserves 3.5 stars.. It's extremely well-written, so it deserves more than 3, but I wasn't quite engaged enough to give it a 4. 

The premise of the novel is somewhat clever: the narrator, Alex, is a young teenager who learns about Ma's early life when she takes the youth along to revisit various locations from her past. During this 2-year journey of re-discovery, Alex matures halfway to adulthood and comes to see Ma less as a parent than as another individual feeling her way through life.

The road trip is a time-honored plot in American literature, no doubt because the U.S. is so large that many adventures are possible as you crisscross it. It's hard to imagine a worthwhile road trip in England, for example, as you could never get far enough from home for the place to seem foreign. This particular road trip is mapped entirely by Ma's desire to catch up with people from her fractured childhood. Alex is just a tagalong, willing enough at the start because it's not obvious that the time away from Dad will be more than a few days or weeks. 

The story could only be told by Alex, and in the first person, because no gender is ever assigned to Alex. At first I unconsciously assumed Alex was a girl. Once the author made Alex's genderlessness plain, I thought it was just a trick to set the book apart. Finally, 3/4 of the way through the book the lack of gender becomes an important trait of Alex and is integrated into the plot. I'm still not sure it is essential to the book, though certainly it is relevant to Alex's own self-discovery late in the story. 

Much of the road trip consists of sleeping in the car and eating out of vending machines; this mode alternates with long stretches of months -- during two school years, mostly -- where Alex and Ma live in tiny cheap rooms and Ma works at any job she can find, often waitressing or bartending. Although they experience many American states in one mode or the other, I felt that the events at each place blurred together with little to distinguish one location from another. 

The second half of the story has a little more action than the first. A stay in one town is forced on them when a wheel falls off their car, and their visit with Ma's university friend ends with Ma rescuing a seventeen-year-old girl from an arranged marriage. A little later, Alex's refusal to be either a boy or a girl antagonizes fellow high school students to the point that home schooling becomes the only option. 

I think this would be an worthwhile book for a book club, and I wish I could discuss it in a group. Perhaps others would find more clues to the personalities of Ma and Alex. I didn't get enough information about either of them to feel that I knew them, or to care very much what happened to them. The excellence of the writing was not enough to make me love the book.

Thanks to NetGalley for an electronic copy of the book, in exchange for an honest review.
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Intense mother - daughter relationship. Their journey is complicated and real. Many twists and turns. Good reading. Liked the story flow. The transition from past to present was well done. Not all the characters were likeable but were needed for the story. Would recommend.
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