The Lauras

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Nov 2017

Member Reviews

The entire time I was reading this book I was asking myself what reason there was to keep reading. Classic literary trap of too much prose, not enough plot, and unnecessarily graphic descriptions of blowjobs really don't improve the monotony problem.
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Very boring. I could not get into it. I don't understand why so many people like this book.
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3.75 Stars

”Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” --- Matsuo Basho

They make their way through the back roads of Alex’s mother’s past, her years in foster care had been spent moving around, passed from family to family. Her teen years spent running from the past and from everyone and everything. Trying to find a place where the pain can’t reach her. And now she’s trying to track down her past, find it and stare it in the face and see if it recognizes her, dragging thirteen year-old Alex along after yet another argument with Alex’s father.

”I knew the vagaries of her life—the foster homes and that she had a green card, the fact that she hadn’t spoken to her parents since she was a teenager—but it wasn’t until we left home that she began writing in the details. Maybe she began telling me then because she felt guilt, or whatever her version of guilt was, over hearing and taking me with her and not explaining anything. Maybe the stories had finally backed up in her and she had to let them out.”

For Alex, this will be a road trip against which all future road trips will be measured. Family stories spill out along the way, family secrets, stories of his grandparents, her friends, adventures and all the things in her life up until this point, everything that has them poised for a new understanding of the future. Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Texas. Reno. Davis, California, Even Canada. Visiting all these places Ma has been, people she has known, including the memorable Lauras, five of them that she has known in her life since before Alex.

The mother-child bond is a strong factor in life, and in this novel, as well. It really is the heart of this novel. There are already so many people in Alex’s life that stare with veiled hostility or curiosity, so many who want to figure out who Alex is, put a label on a person. So few who accept Alex without question, but Ma does.

"It's bothered me for as long as I can remember, the way the human compulsion to classify stands at odds with my feeling of falling outside the available categories ... Everyone seemed determined to put me into a box that I had no interest being in."

This story covers many themes, there’s a sense of eternal wanderlust that permeates this, identity and gender identity, there’s the theme of the bond between Ma and Alex, mother and child, and the bond of friendship, the bond of promises, making them and keeping them. The theme of Home.
I loved the teasing, push / pull relationship between Alex and Ma. I loved their similarities and how that both divided them at times, and added understanding of each other at other times. There was always a level of comfort there between them, unafraid to share their feelings, their stories.

Alex is the narrator, sharing the memories of those years when they went in search of The Lauras, a pivotal year for Alex and for Ma. The story told through a hazy wistfulness of that time, a time where they both learned so much about love, each other and where our heart calls home.


Pub Date: 1 Aug 2017

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Crown Publishing / Hogarth
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Most road trip novels I've read have involved teenagers. I loved that this was about a mother and daughter.
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I requested this because that's my name!  

The story of Alex and her mom as they travel across country after up and leaving their home.  It's about learning who you are, and who you think you mom is.  They both have to grow up and become the best they can be. 

"I didn't have the child's blind trust in the omnipotence of parents anymore. I had eaten the apple and now knew that Ma was just like me, that she probably didn't know what to do right now anymore than I would, that her only advantage was a rapidly narrowing gulf of experience."
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I really enjoyed The Lauras. It is a bit hard to read emotionally, especially if you have a special connection with your mother but also have a fear of her leaving you one day. Watching Alex grow up during the two years they are on the road, travelling cross country, is very enveloping. Seeing Alex learn about their Mom through her stories, and visiting people from her past, is both exhausting and intriguing. The writing is a bit flowering, and something hard to weave through, but ultimately it's a beautiful book and a great coming of age story.
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This book was riveting and very moving. I found it confusing whether Alex the 13 year old narrator was a girl or boy and did that really matter? The only reason it mattered was because I kept thinking about it. Otherwise I really liked this book. I look forward to reading other books by Sara Taylor
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I enjoy a good coming of age story. That is basically what The Lauras is. However, there is a twist as the protagonist, Alex, is a teen who has embraced the idea of gender neutrality.

Alex is taken from bed one night after hearing parents fighting. Alex's mother has decided to leave Alex's father. They begin a long journey across the United States. If funds were unlimited, the actual 'journey' would have taken a few months. However, Ma does not have unlimited funds and therefore must take the time to work in different locations and save up the money.

The whole gender neutrality thing was an interesting twist. Alex has sexual urges, but you never are told flat out if Alex is a boy (with homosexual tendencies as there is an attraction to a guy in one part) or a girl. Rather, Alex doesn't want to be put into a box as to do so would force the choice of which parent Alex most aligns with.

The other part of the story which is so nicely told in the pages is how there comes a point when you learn a parent isn't just your parent. They had a life before you including dreams for what they wanted which might not have come to pass. Sometimes those things remain a secret forever. Other times, a parent will share as their child matures and can handle seeing behind the curtain. It is during the long journey that Alex learns some (but probably not all) of Ma's secrets.
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This was a coming of age type story about a character named Alex, and it is not clear if the character is a male or female. It was definitely intentional and an interesting take. I didn't identify very much with the character although he or she was in a tough situation - the story follows Alex and the mother moving around the country and explaining the mother's backstory. I recommend if you like stories about disconnected families getting to know each other.
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Tingling down your back, restlessness,  itchy arms, these are the symptoms of being in one place too long and needing to hit the road. Doesn't matter if it's in foot,  hitchhiking or by ferry, bus or car when the urge hits, you have to go.
Alex has been with his mother from i.e. side of the country to another.  She has things to do and places to go to and people to see. These are all part of who she is, and that makes it a part of Alex too. As they travel she tells him stories, her life stories. The Laura's are people she knows and stepping stones in her life. 
Alex has to decide what is important,  het story or his.
Wonderful story line, great characters. 
5 Stars
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I wasn't sure what rating to give this book. It wasn't earth shattering. It doesn't rock your world. It doesn't make you overthink anything. It's just an interesting story. A good tale. It moves along nicely and sustains your interest throughout. And maybe ...maybe that's really all you need in a decent read.
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What to say? I really struggled to connect with the characters. I didn't really want to go on this journey with them but here I was. That said, there were some poignant components of the book and I did finish the journey.
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The Lauras by Sara Taylor is kind of a meandering, wandering tale following the flight of Alex (who is neither boy nor girl according to the narrative) and his or her mother.  They leave Alex's father and go on some sort of wild goose chase, visiting the ghosts of the past.  Alex's mother is quite flighty and doesn't stay in one place long, and she drags Alex along, unwillingly at first.  Alex is on the brink of becoming an adult and doesn't know where to go in life.  This book is the story of childhood merging head-on with adulthood with no stops in between.  I enjoyed the story, but it was a kind of numb, mindless enjoyment and not overly exciting.
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I would like to thank Sara Taylor, Crown Publishing and Netgalley for giving me this book for my honest review.
Review By Stephanie
I was super excited when I saw Sara Taylor had a new novel!  I loved her last novel The Shore that I was like “heck yeah” when I saw The Lauras on netgalley! These two books are incredibly different but they echo Sara’s amazing story telling and her amazing style of writing! 
The Lauras is told by Alex, who is a 13 year old who doesn’t live by one gender or the other.  Alex is woken up in the middle of the night by her/his parents fighting, this isn’t new for Alex but this fight Alex’s mom storms into Alex’s room and grabs him/her and they run away from the home. The rest of the book is Alex and his/her mother’s journey together across the country. This journey takes place over several years, and it is remarkable to read about a mother and her child. They are on the run yet the conversions, the adventures and challenges these two faced was very interesting to read. Since Alex doesn’t identify with a specific gender they question of gender roles is tacked as well as what home really means.
I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more from Sara Taylor!
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There are moments in the book when a skilled writing hand comes through. Those seem to be lost, however, among long, drawn-out sections of repetition and/or gratuitous vulgarity.
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After yet another argument between his mom and dad, Ma and Alex leave with only a backpack, their "papers" and a little money. Alex thinks it is for the night, but they keep going. Days turn to weeks. Ma has a plan but doesn't tell Alex more than necessary about their destinations or the purpose for each stop. As they travel, Alex slowly learns about his mom through her stories and through the places they go and how she handles each situation. Alex, who does not relate to either gender, struggles with puberty and the awkwardness of dealing with other teens that have difficulties accepting Alex as a person without knowing what lies below.  It is never confirmed which gender applies, and I think this is the author's choice to respect Alex's rights to privacy.  There were a few things that seemed to hint to me one gender versus the other but I think that is still debatable. In reality, it doesn't matter. It is the experiences, the mother-child relationship,  the mind of a pubescent teen that make this book a winner. Certain subject matter may make some readers uncomfortable, but it is realistically presented.  Negative foster care experiences, dangers of hitch-hiking, drugs, cross dressing, child abuse, same-sex relationships, cult activities and other situations that may be seen as offensive by more sensitive readers are broached.  Not a book for the faint of heart but definitely a worthwhile read.

Thank you to NetGalley and Crown Publishing for allowing me to read an Advanced Read Copy of this book for an unbiased review.
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This was a decent read about a teenager whose gender is never revealed over the course of the story. The author does an excellent job bringing the reader into the mind of this young person during a time of life that is difficult as it is.  Coupled with the backstory of the mother who is moving across country to escape the breakdown of a relationship, this novel explores difficult issues well. I would recommend..
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This book was slow, boring at times, vague in so many ways and had no ending. I would  it recommend this book and rate it a 2!
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Sara Taylor’s novel, The Shore, captivated and confused me. Her most recent novel, The Lauras, has left me feeling the same. A mother, known as “Ma,” leaves her husband and home with 13-year-old Alex in tow. What follows is a two-year odyssey of visits to places on a road map of Ma’s former life where she comes to terms with or makes good on promises made years ago. While Alex’s mother may have a plan in mind that would explain their various stops in towns across the country, sometimes by the side of the road for a night or two, sometimes in a seedy motel for almost the length of a school year, she seldom clues Alex into this plan. Answers to questions are often met with “I’ll tell you later.” At times Alex is often willing to put up with much more than this reader. Where Ma deserves parental kudos is her support of Alex’s indifference to identify with a particular gender. For this I can forgive all of the other times she appeared to put her own needs above her child’s. 

And who are the Lauras? They are girls Ma met over the years that made an imprint on her life. They’ve become place marks on the road map she carries on their cross-country journey. Surprisingly, not all of these girls were named Laura. As Ma explains to Alex, “…it just so happens that when I was born everyone was naming their daughter ‘Laura.’…When you’re eight or nine, say, and you make your first best friend, they’re the greatest person in the world and you know that you’ll be friends forever. But one day one of you moves away and they leave a vacancy. And then you meet someone with the same name, and because you’re eight part of you thinks not exactly that they’re the same person, but they were made from the same block of clay, maybe.” She goes on to say that when you’re forty, you look back and see that you have a whole string of “Lauras” behind you that the eight-year-old in you was using “to fill in the hole that the first Laura made.”

The Lauras has some lovely language and the characters, particularly Alex’s, are unique and well drawn. The conversations between Ma and Alex are distinctive and weirdly refreshing. I simply wondered at times whose story I was reading. It’s almost as though there’s a Part I and a Part II, the first belonging to Ma and the second to Alex. Either way it’s quite the road trip.
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I did not finish this book as I did not engage with the story or the characters.
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