by Stacey D. Atkinson
Stuck begins with the definition of the word
1 unable to progress
2 confined in a place
Odette exemplifies both 1 and 2. She is in her early twenties, works at the same convenience store she has worked at since high school; and she is ‘confined’ to living in a trailer with her teenage sister, and her Bingo-addicted mother.
I never pictured my life to be like this: sleeping all day, eating supper for breakfast, working the night shift for a few dollars more than minimum wage, and still living with my mother. But then again, I'd never actually set out a specific plan to achieve my independence. I just fell in step with the routine of life.
She describes her childhood:
Having a Bingo Ma wasn’t easy. There were days when we could only afford to eat plain spaghetti for supper, no sauce even. In the evenings my sisters and I would wait in the living room for Ma to return home from the hall to see if it was a Win Day. On these days we could buy whatever kind of chips and chocolate bars we wanted, even the expensive kinds like Toblerone. …
We’d be on a delirious sugar high for a good week before realizing the money had run out. Then we’d be right back where we started, marking an x on the calendar to count down the days until the next welfare cheque arrived.
Their trailer is a mess with ‘dirty glasses … and lipstick-stained butts’ until Odette has the time to clean. Odette’s paycheck supplements the welfare and Bingo money. She feels responsible for her teenage sister Sophie, whom she fears is heading for trouble. There is an older sister Natalie.
At the age of twenty-five she could already claim a failed marriage and three kids from three different fathers. … To get by, she lived on her monthly welfare cheque just like Ma and got paid under the table for a weekend shift here and there at the fish plant.
The book takes place in Pointe-du-Chene, New Brunswick Canada. It is a fishing village near the city of Moncton.
Besides the trailer park and the fishermen’s homes, the rest of the village was a thriving cottage community, full of people who celebrated the summer months.
I haven’t been able to find the exact quote, but I recently heard someone on the radio say that the divide in the US now isn’t based on race, but class. And I expect it may be the same in Canada. In Pointe-du-Chene, there are the rich tourists and there are the locals who make their living by fishing, and by catering to the summer visitors. Very rarely do the twain meet, but in Stuck, Odette becomes friendly with one of the Yacht Club young men. She lets herself be a woman of mystery, not telling him her true identity. It is very interesting to see how this plays out. Odette also meets a stranger on the beach where she goes after her night shift ends.
If you read my book reports, you probably know that I favor the slow, quiet book. I like a book that drops me into a character’s life and lets me live alongside her for a while, getting to know her and the life she lives. I am exceedingly fond of Odette. She is a low-key kind of person, who is involved with her family and community, while at the same time having a dream for something, and somewhere, else. The reader doesn’t know if she will find an opportunity to follow that dream.
New Brunswick is a bilingual province, and I really enjoyed the occasional use of French in the book. If you don't know the language, you can still get the gist of what a word or phrase means. The sense of place is very strong, and we see that Odette is a product of her home town.
The word ‘pleasant’ isn’t used very often as a description of a book, and if it is, it is apt to be used in a sort of disparaging way, but I love the word. The thesaurus says:
enjoyable, pleasurable, nice, agreeable, pleasing, satisfying, gratifying, good; entertaining, amusing, delightful, charming.
And this book is all of those things. It made me happy reading it. I found the ending perfect, yet real. In life most problems are not neatly solved, but we generally find a way to deal with them, and Odette does. It was one of my personal favorites from 2013. You may visit the author’s website here.
A while ago, I got an email from the author asking if I’d like to read and write about this book. I get a few of these emails every year, and most of them are about books I wouldn’t read in a hundred years, but everything about Stuck appealed to me. I knew I would love it, and I did. She offered to give me the Kindle book, but I bought it for myself instead. It is available as a Kindle book for only $2.99 and is also in print version.
This is my third book for the 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge.
I happened to find a little song called Pointe du Chene girl which I think kind of captures the spirit of Odette.