Review: Book award finalist a coming-of-age tale with an authentic voice

2013-08-25T00:00:00Z 2013-10-03T16:44:05Z Review: Book award finalist a coming-of-age tale with an authentic voiceBy CONNIE DILLON For The Gazette The Billings Gazette
August 25, 2013 12:00 am  • 

“The Miseducation of Cameron Post”

Emily M. Danforth

HarperCollins

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^pA story’s introductory line should rouse a reader’s interest and set the tone of the book.

“The afternoon my parents died, I was out shoplifting with Irene Klauson” certainly captivates us, but it is author Emily M. Danforth’s earnestness and authenticity of voice in this debut novel that enticingly compel, and at times gently corner, us to continue reading until the very end.

“The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” a finalist in the 2013 High Plains Best Woman Writer category, is a refreshing coming-of-age tale that vividly shares a young woman’s struggle to grow up independently in a world where adults have designed life’s blueprints to reflect their own dogma and disillusionment.

Cameron’s world rapidly changes course on a lazy, sizzling summer day in 1989 in Miles City. News of her parents’ car accident catches her so unaware that her first reaction is relief; she has not been found out. Her shared first kiss with Irene in the hayloft can remain secret. Once she comprehends, however, the scope of her predicament, this precocious 12-year-old’s precarious footing will be forever shifting and threatening her navigation. She hasn’t lived long enough to understand the rules of adjustment.

This book has many layers. We experience Cameron’s common but quietly savored rural life before her parents’ exit from it. We are her cheering squad as she traverses the world of right and wrong, as she experiences the strains of new friendships, and forges family relationships.

She tries to pioneer her own path as best she can as the ward of an enigmatic relative. Her vantage point is blurred by her over-zealously religious Aunt Ruth, who has become her legal guardian.

We can’t always fault Ruth. She is doing the best she can with the skills she has, and she is no more equipped to become a full-time parent than Cameron is prepared for her to take over her mother’s role.

Ruth sends her niece away to a Christian camp for sexual-conversion therapy. That this would be an option of any society, or of any personal idiosyncratic, misguided agenda, is difficult to digest. It is due to Danforth’s excellent writing that we cut such intolerant characters some slack.

When her grandmother, whom Cameron has always felt to be a kindred spirit, turns on her, we accommodate the notion that she is too old to change, that she blindly follows a code of imagined family ethics. We witness how the family’s judgments tarnish Cameron’s tough spirit only because her choices fail to match the template of life as they know it.

Cameron Post takes short, strong strokes in a swim across the vast peninsula of her young life to come to grips with her loss and her own beginnings, and we applaud her gutsy venture. She is a strong swimmer in a life just now being explored, just now being realized.

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Connie Dillon is an artist, photographer, playwright, publisher of “The Real Estate Book” and president of Zonta Club of Billings.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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