Sunday, May 11, 2008

Defining Dulcie by Paul Acampora

#39 Defining Dulcie by Paul Acampora
Copyright 2006
Dial Books YA Fiction
168 pages

As we rolled out of town, Mom gripped the steering wheel like she was trying to strangle a chicken. I stared into the passenger-side mirror at my grandfather growing smaller in the distance. Then I watched the suitcases and cardboard boxes piled high in the bed of the truck. A flap on one carton started to blow loose, and just as we made a sharp left-hand turn onto the interstate, the box burst open. Stockings and socks and underwear, both mine and Mom's, sailed into the breeze. "Dulcie," Mom said, unaware of the undergarment parade behind us, "it's going to be okay. We're going to be all right."

"Maybe," I said, "but we're not going to be comfortable."

"It looks like we've reached the part of the project often referred to in technical terms as the what-the-hell-have-we-done-moment."

"Dulcie," said Frank, "I think you're confusing normal with reasonable."

I went back to the dictionary. "Reasonable. Being within the bounds of common sense. Rational. Not excessive or extreme."

Frank took the book from my hands. He flipped to a new page and read out loud. "Mother. A woman who conceives, gives birth to, and/or raises a child." He looked up. "There's nothing in there about normal, rational or reasonable."

"That's no excuse," I said. "And, what's with the and/or?"

"Give your mother a break," said Frank, "and/or remember that she's had just as tough a year as you."

Defining Dulcie tells about a 16-year-old girl whose father has recently died. Dulcie's mother impulsively decides to sell just about everything she and her daughter own and move to California to start a new life, presumably with the intent of also abandoning painful memories. But when Dulcie's mom informs Dulcie that she's bought a new Volvo and is going to trade in the ancient truck that belonged to Dulcie's father, Dulcie is horrified and knows she's not ready to part with the last of her father's possessions. So, she steals the truck and drives back home to Connecticut, where she moves in with her grandfather and discovers, by way of a new friendship, that life could be much worse.

I ordered Defining Dulcie from Paperback Swap on the recommendation of one of my reading twins, Sharon. I think I liked the idea as much as the story itself, but it was executed well. The story nicely blends humor with the more serious issue of grief and is not just about Dulcie defining who she is, but about friendship and love, loss and life, affection for words and unexpected connections.

I loved the characters in Defining Dulcie. When Dulcie's new friend showed up, I thought she was less clearly defined (and maybe a bit too much like Dulcie, her father and her grandfather) than she should have been. There a few too many characters with the same quirky sense of humor. And, yet, I loved their unique brand of humor and found the story a refreshing, light read and very enjoyable..

Thumbs up, 4/5 - Dulcie, her father (who is described in flashback scenes) and her grandfather are all such lovable characters that you can't help but gobble up this book for the sheer joy of their dialogue. I'd definitely like to read more by this author. Defining Dulcie is a witty, warm , bittersweet tale of love, laughter and life. It's short -- almost too short -- but a great little snack of a book.

Just finished: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. Now I have to locate the movie. I've checked it out from the library in the past, but I didn't get around to viewing. And, yet, the movie managed to invade my thoughts. I knew that Anne Hathaway played Ella, so the Ella I visualized had Anne's face. The prince will probably be shockingly different from my imagined prince. They usually are.

New neighbors: We have a couple of Mississippi kites (the bird, not the thing on a string) building a nest in a huge oak tree across the street from us. I hope to get some decent photos, soon. I've watched one of them -- probably the male, if my earlier sparrow homebuilding post is evidence of who does the building -- bringing home bits and pieces for their nest, but I was gardening at the time. My camera prefers not to be embedded with dirt and sweat, so I have just begun to attempt to capture them on film. While I was watching for kites, a hawk swooped fairly low, nearby. He was really beautiful. You'll just have to trust me on that, since I didn't manage to photograph him, either.

I just realized: I'm coming up on my 2-year blogiversary in about a month. Or, is it spelled bloggiversary? Either way, the spell-check robot objects. Point being, I had to go back through numerous posts in order to determine when I began blogging and discovered this little bit of bloggery posting about the book Shopportunity! by Kate Newlin and how it made me observing the contents of my home analytically:

Who'd have thought that a book about shopping--describing the reasons discount stores have yanked away the thrill of the hunt--could be a fascinating read? Newlin has me looking around my home, pondering the junk cramming practically every corner. Oh, my gosh. What a tacky cesspool of cheapness. What a ponderously mountainous mess of unnecessary trinkets. What a tragic homage to the cut-price and pointless. What a disaster of epic proportions!

Well, that really describes the packrat problem rather well, doesn't it?

Hubby is back from Norway (but leaving in the morning -- not happy about that). He did not
bring me a Viking. He did, however, bring evidence that Vikings once lived in the area he visited:

Well, cool. I guess that'll do. Huzzybuns did bring me a sweater -- which will, of course, be packed away for the next 6 months but we can't fault him because, "The Canadians talked me into it." Oh, those Canadians. So persuasive.

More photos of Norway forthcoming (because I figure y'all can join in on the painful envy I'm experiencing -- or at least enjoy the view). Of critical importance . . . must learn how to upload a video to YouTube and embed because you have got to see the video of the sheep. It is just the cutest darned thing I've seen in ages.

Happy, happy day!


  1. I love sheep...they just have a way of making you smile, don't they :) Your new bird friends sound really cool! Hope we get some pics soon! I have no doubt that we will ;) Sorry you didn't get your viking, but at least like you said you now know that they did indeed once roam those lands, lol. Now you just need a time machine.

  2. Wow, look at those views. I can't wait for more pictures.

  3. A sweater and some photos, huh? Not quite the same as a real live Viking, but I guess you gotta take what you get, huh? Sorry to hear he's off again...where to this time?

    Wonderful review...I'm definitely adding that one to the wish list! Those passages you shared are priceless!

  4. Sounds like a good one. I love your observations on the junk in your house. I have those moments and feel guilty. Great pix! Can't wait to see more. Glad to see us Canadians are taking over the world one sweater at a time. Mwa-ha-ha-ha!

  5. I like the sound of this book. I think I'm going to add it to my TBR, based on your recommendation!

  6. Chris,

    Me, too. Sheep are fun. :)

    I've gotten a few pics of one of the kites, but nothing great. I'll keep working on it!

    A time machine!!! That's definitely what I need! That, and a way to get to Norway to use it. Possibly something big to hit the Vikings with, if they become problematic (all that pillaging business -- you just never know).


    It looks really pretty. He didn't take as many photos as I do, but hubby was in a valley on a fjord. How cool is that?

  7. Debi,

    A sweater and photos will just have to do. The sweater's kind of funny, since we only have about two months of winter, but it's really pretty.

    Hubby's in Washington, D.C., today. He goes there quite a bit.

    I hope you like Defining Dulcie! I really enjoyed it. Near as I can tell, it's the only book by that author. Fingers are crossed that he'll write more. :)


    I'm working hard on that clutter, but it's a huge job! Yeah, you can't help but feel like, "What on earth was I thinking?" when you start to tackle clutter piles, if you're a packrat.

    Oh, that's a good slogan:

    Canada: Taking over the World One Sweater at a Time

    I like! :)


    I hope you like Defining Dulcie, too! :)

  8. Thanks for an interesting review! Think I'll add this one to my list.

    I'd so love to visit Norway!

  9. Love the photos of Norway! A sweater would be a good gift me - I could use it months a year! What age group is Ella Enchanted intended for?

  10. Jenclair,

    I hope you enjoy the book, if you do get hold of a copy.

    Norway looks just as pretty as you'd expect, at least as seen via cheap digital camera. :)


    It's a really pretty sweater, good for either dress-up or casual. You'd get tons of wear out of it. I'll do my best to wear it out, but it may take a decade. :)

    Amazon says Ella Enchanted is for ages 9-12. The Two Princesses of Bamarre is still my favorite by Levine, but I enjoyed Ella, too.

  11. Anonymous2:16 PM

    The book does sound good. Nice pictures though! A Viking would probably be much more hassle than he's worth. All that pillaging in the neighborhood. A sweater is better.

  12. Oh I love that view! I could use a calm, green place by some water with few people and some sheep! Looking forward to seeing more photos! I'd love to visit Norway someday. We did make it to Denmark when we lived in the UK but that was the furthest north we got in Europe.

  13. Carrie,

    The book was good.

    As to the Vikings . . . well, yeah. I'd probably dislike the uproar over the pillaging. I could use a few more months of sweater weather, though; I fear the sweater won't get a whole lot of use. I'm going to pray the moths don't get to the sweater before I do. :)


    Couldn't we all! Oddly, David said there was nobody about, whenever they went out walking in the village. He described it as completely eerie. But, beautiful, of course.

    I've never been beyond France on the European continent. I envy you. :)


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