The Lauras

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Nov 2017

Member Reviews

It's another night of fights in Alex's house.  But this time ends differently.  As Alex's mother storms out the door, she stops and pulls Alex out to the car also.  Off they drive into the night, and Alex doesn't know where they are going.  That's not different.  Alex's mother isn't big on talking or sharing plans.

As they drive over the next few days, it appears there is a plan.  Alex's mother is revisiting her younger days and the people that affected her then, either for good or evil.  Some are friends she made many years ago and she revisits them, renewing friendships.  Some are those who treated her badly and she confronts them.  Rarely does Alex know much about what draws her to these people although she usually shares a bit afterwards.

Alex doesn't know how long this will be and misses home.  At fourteen, Alex isn't sure of a lot of things.  Like how life will turn out, or even what gender will work.  As the weeks and months go by, Alex begins to grow up and make decisions.  There are friends to make and places to visit.  There is a father to reunite with.  Will his mother ever share her whole story?

Sara Taylor explores the parent-child bond in this dysfunctional family story.  The mother seems rootless and self-centered, willing to tear her child apart from the father and to drag her child along as she chases her past.  The whole theme of the gender confusion of the child seems a bit clumsy also and makes the book more difficult to bond with.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.
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In the middle of the night, Alex’s mother wakes up her thirteen-year-old them up and tells them that it’s time to go. Walking sleepily to the car, Alex never imagines that they won’t return. But alas, so begins their cross-country journey--mother and child, their whole life stuffed in a sedan.

As they drive, the mother reluctantly describes to Alex the pieces of the puzzle of her youth; retracing her steps from years ago, state by state. 

The destinations and stopping points are not simply cities of interest, or tourist-y landmarks, but rather places where Alex’s mom once lived, in and out of the foster care system. At almost every stop, one of a series of women from the mother’s life (most of which are “coincidentally” named Laura) is revealed. And with it, another piece for Alex to use to fill in their mom’s unknown past.

"She learned to blend in, to fade into the foreground, killed her accent so that she didn't stick out, but every new English word took her farther from her parents and the country where she had been born. She wedged herself into an in-between space: not American [...] not Sicilian [...] but eternally other, so that she could only be comfortable when no one expected her to belong."

At its heart, The Lauras is a road trip story, but merely calling it that is ignoring the many layers hidden beneath its plot. An older Alex, who is non-binary and (from what I gather) pansexual, narrates these few years from an unknown future. The “road trip” lasts a lot longer than mother or child intended, as they grudgingly make their way across the country, seeking a new beginning.

"’So, is this home for now?’ I asked.
[...] ‘Nah. Home’s a long way away still. But we’ll get there.’"

This novel has that unnameable quality that causes one to positively devour a book. I didn’t even mean to start it the first place at the time, but it was calling out to me on my iPad. It might have just been the right time for me, but I fell in love with Taylor’s prose, the pacing of the story, the distinct personality of each “Laura”. A thought-provoking, amazing story.

I was able to find a lot of similarities between teenage Alex and myself. Nature was Alex’s sanctuary on the road. No matter how horrid their living conditions were, Alex managed to find a place of retreat whether it was the beach, the mountains, or anything in between. I, too, take much comfort being in the forest, where it's quiet and just away from everything else. 

Unlike Alex, though, I would love to live a life where I wake up in a different place everyday, were I able to. So far in my 28 trips around the sun, I have driven across the entire continental U.S. three and a half times, each time taking a slightly different route. The feeling of being on the road, with a destination in mind but not being in a's the closest I have ever felt to being truly free. Alex's mother understands this feeling, and Sara Taylor has captured the up's and down's of living on the road so very eloquently.

One of my favorite parts was discovering a little hidden gem from the author: a stop in Gilead, Texas, which is a place that doesn’t actually exist! I was delighted to find this nod to The Handmaid’s Tale. I’ll leave you to figure out how it connects on your own, if you choose to read this delightful and thoughtful novel. Perhaps I can entice you with a few more quotes...

 "I wanted to be the sort of person that would dive in after her, the sort of person that welcomed the unfathomable depths without needing to understand them. I wanted to be my mother, in that moment. I knew that I was not."

"People went on and on about how unique their part of the country was, and while the landscape had changed as we went it had still been Wal-Marts and McDonald’s from sea to shining sea."

4.5//5 stars

A million thank you's to HOGARTH for sending me this eARC long ago, via NetGalley.


Initial thoughts: I can’t believe how fast I read this, and I didn’t even really mean to start it in the first place!🤣 It was calling to me.
A really fantastic story for a fairly new author (who I will definitely read again.) I forgot how much I loved road trip stories. And a gender-less (pansexual?) narrator who speaks very well was unique and enjoyable. 

More thoughts after I catch up on other reviews!
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This was the book I didn't know I needed.  Unique in a way I found impossible not to relate to, it told a story that was none of us and perhaps all of us in the same moment.  

Learning to live your own life, struggling to do the best for those that depend on you.  That fine line between neglecting and realizing you can't take care of anyone if you neglect yourself.  

Add in to all that the struggle of growing up and becoming a teenager.  Leaving your home, learning your parents aren't who you thought they were.  

It was deep, it was moody, and often sullen.  Yet still insightful and miraculous.
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Alex's uproots their life when she packs up a car and forces them to leave home in the middle of the night.  The resulting road trip takes the across country and on a spiritual quest to come to terms with her past.  Alex is an interesting teenage, genderless character who tells the story with a keen eye and realistic point of view.  This is a slow book but I really enjoyed it.  I have read the author's previous book, The Shore, and think her writing is beautiful and insightful.  She is definitely an author I will continue to read in the future.  I received a digital ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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My sleep-deprived brain is so incredibly numb after finally finishing "The Lauras", I don't know where to start. Except that this book should come with a content warning: sexual assault and molestation, for starters.

I was not at all prepared for the horrors each supporting character's story presented. In fact, had I known, I more than likely would not have requested an ARC of this book in the first place.

That all being said, I did appreciate Alex being queer and standing up for themself when the situation called for it, I had to skim past certain scenes for my own mental health, but overall I think the nonbinary representation was handled pretty well.
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I love Sara Taylor's writing. And I also love coming of age stories with family secrets. With The Lauras we've got both and that makes for a happy reader!
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I received a free ecopy of this book from PenguinRandomHouse Canada for an honest review. I somehow went into this book thinking it was going to be about a mother/daughter road trip story to find their true identities and reconnect. Instead it was a road trip with a mother and her transgender child fleeing their current lives. We never learn which sex Alex identifies with. The road trip is facilitated by the fact that Alex’s mother and father have marriage troubles and the mother has had enough. We learn the backstory of the mother’s life during the road trip. I found this very interesting but was also sad for Alex who wished to go home.
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I'm not sure where to start with this one. I enjoyed the book (3 1/2 stars), but it wasn't an easy read. There is so much dysfunction going on here. It becomes depressing at times. It is the story of a young non-gender teen who is taken on a long and random road trip by the mom, herself a product of multiple foster homes and clueless, selfish parents. The mother is leaving her husband and home with no intentions of returning. Their travel takes them to numerous states and connections with several people from the mother's previous life. There isn't really a clear purpose for relating this story, but the author does a great job of defining these troubled characters for the reader.
My thought is that readers will have mixed feelings about this book. It reads quite well, particularly in some places. It also has little direction and readers might have difficulty caring enough about these characters to finish reading. There is no real conclusion to the book either. I did see some growth in the two characters(mother and child), but there was little real emotional appeal and nothing particularly settling by the end of the story.
I think some people will find this a good read without the need for exciting action or a tidily wrapped-up ending. If you are intrigued by troubled and struggling characters, you might want to pick this one up. It is likely not for the casual reader or fans of action driven prose, but rather much more a character study of flawed and damaged people.
I thank the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this title.
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A simple conceit--journey, going off withe no prospects & finding one's way--guides this excellent novel. While certainly well-written & well-crafted, I was left feeling as though this story could have given readers more--not in length or detail but in moral punch. Many casual readers will find themselves obsessing over the parenting of the characters more than they ought. I say this because the narrator Alex, a enby teen (non-binary), gives us a story focused on the much maligned and/or ignored internal life of a trans/nonbinary person that ISN'T trite YA fodder.
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I loved the idea of this book so much, but not always the experience of reading it. Taylor may well be ahead of her time with her genderless narrator, but I found myself really wanting to have some of those questions answered as the story progressed.
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Really enjoyed this - loved that you never knew Alex’s gender. It keeps things interesting for sure.
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In the middle of the night, Alex's mother decides it is time for a road trip. The two of them head across the country to find people from Ma's past. As they travel, Ma tells Alex about her life and they stop for a while to see someone or earn enough money to keep going. Their journey will bring the two closer together and push them apart, as they decide how they want to live the rest of their lives.

The Lauras is a very unique story. Taylor's debut novel The Shore did some creative things with storytelling as well. But The Lauras can be a difficult book to read; Alex is coming to terms with their sexuality and complicated family and Ma is trying to find peace with a painful past. At certain parts, this book seems to be an ode to human resiliency, but it never becomes trite. I didn't adore this book in the way that I loved her previous one, but Sara Taylor is an inventive and talented writer and I will be interested to see what she does next.

The Lauras
By Sara Taylor
Hogarth Press August 2017
304 pages
Read via Netgalley
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In Sara Taylor's book, The Shore, I was amazed at how well she was able to craft her story about an area not too far from where I grew up.  I fell in love with that book and was excited to learn of her latest endeavor.  I was not disappointed.  Ms. Taylor's novel, The Lauras, about a cross-country journey turned out to be much more than that.  It is about the relationship between a mother and her child, that child's journey about learning what it means to grow up, and reconciling with the past to create a better future.  Ms. Taylor stirred the wanderlust in me and I was along for the ride with her characters.  I truly hope The Lauras is adapted for film or television because it would be nice to see America's landscape and the book's characters come to life.  I would definitely recommend this book.
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I wish I'd liked this. I really expected to, but it was a bit odd for me. I couldn't get into it.
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I loved how the author never hinted at the main character's gender; highlighting how similar the inner turmoil of both boys and girls is during the teen years. I adored the writing style, also. My only problem was how graphic the forced fellacio scene was. I am not saying that it should not have been in the book, but it was much more graphic than any other scene. The intensity didn't add to the impact of the situation. That is why I am giving this title four stars instead of five.
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It is never revealed in this book if the main character and narrator, Alex, is male or female.  For the ease of writing a review I will use feminine pronouns but bear in mind Alex could also be a male character.  When Alex is thirteen years old, Ma takes Alex and leaves home in the middle of an argument with Alex's father.  She had been planning to leave for a long while because a backpack filled with birth certificates and passports lay by their front door so long that it was a familiar sight in their house.  

Ma and Alex strike out on a road trip basically across the country.  Ma has a map that she marks with particular places she wants to stop.  Basically, Ma is taking herself and Alex on a road trip through her past.  It is on this road trip, through stories Ma tells, that Alex learns her mother is a person with thoughts, feelings, and a past that did not include her.  As sad as Alex's upbringing is at times, Ma's is even sadder.  Given her background, she proves to be a good mother to Alex all things considered.  Alex is a sensitive child and over the course of the road trip, which includes extended pitstops in places so that Ma can earn money to continue the trip, she grows up and matures a great deal.  Alex also experiences real instances of abuse.

The Lauras is a well written novel that will stay with readers long after they finish reading the last words.  It's an unusual story but felt very real.  You'll find yourself hoping that both Ma and Alex find better lives.  The title, The Lauras, is intriguing and the reason for it is interesting.  I will leave that part of the story up to readers to discover for themselves.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this novel.
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When Ma decides to pull Alex out of bed and hit the road, everything changes from there.
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This book was interesting...I'm trying to find words to describe the book without giving much away, because it'll make the reader stop and think.   

The book looks at relationships, sexuality,  loss, and some others as the reader follows a mother and her child in her a look back into her past. This book would be a good one to read if you're into self-discovery.
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This is a road trip novel of sorts, but also the story of a mother leaving a relationship with her teenager, looking for something that has been perhaps missing in her own life too.
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