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3 6 4 WAL 3 4 .3 FALL 1999 An Ocean in Iowa. By Peter Hedges. N ew York: H yperion, 1998. 248 pages, $22.95/$30.95. Reviewed by Natalie Meenderink U tah State University, Logan In An Ocean in Iowa, Peter Hedges has created an ideal life for soonto -be seven-year-old Scotty Ocean. Scotty has decided that seven is going to be his year, but it may not be the kind of year he imagined. Scotty’s mom Joan, a painter, decides to leave the family soon after Scotty’s seventh birth­ day, which she has worked to make the best ever. Scotty and Joan had spent a great deal of time together, and he is understandably devastated by his mother’s departure. In typical childlike fashion, he imagines that had he been a good boy, a perfect boy, she would not have left him. However, this is just one of the trials planned for Scotty. In the following chapters, Scotty has new neighbors, a crush on a friend’s mother, growing pains at school, and the kind of struggles with friends that any seven-year-old would normally encounter. Scotty’s father, the “Judge,” tries hard to keep things as normal as possible, holding family dinners and activities while striving to make the house the most fun place to be in town in hopes that Joan will return to the family. In an emotional scene, Hedges describes the moment Scotty realizes that his mother isn’t coming back, and he doesn’t care anymore: “As he lay there, it was as if a vacuum hose had been inserted down his throat. . . . [EJverything vital, everything pure, got sucked out. . . . [T]he heart began to stretch, to be pulled, and finally it was ripped out and went screaming down the tube, gone” (129-30). The story is told from Scotty’s point of view, yet it is sustained through the emotion it captures and the connection it creates between the charac­ ters and the reader. Hedges has captured the spirit and pain of a young boy’s losses. Television programs are a focus of discussion after a schoolmate’s mother dies. To explain how Scotty’s young mind deals with the loss of a mother, Hedges emphasizes that the shows Scotty likes are all about fami­ lies missing one parent: M>’ Three Sons, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Family Affair, and Bonanza. “TV provided the necessary evidence. Not only was it possible to survive without a mother, it seemed to improve your chances of having your own TV show” (167). An Ocean in Iowa is about how a seven-year-old deals with life: “Seven handled helping the laundry. Seven handled matching socks and shining the Judge’s shoes and dressing himself every morning. Seven managed” (171). Although this book is aimed at the young adult audience, there is no fairy-tale happy ending or kiss to make it better, just the trials and love of one family told through a child’s eyes. ...


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