Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney is at its heart a story of mothers and daughters. In this case, there are three generations of mothers and daughters who all make mistakes but ultimately struggle to do the best they can.
Each of the storytellers, Madeline, Desiree and Ariel has a distinct voice. Madeline is super-responsible, and she takes care of her alcoholic mother. But she’s extremely overweight, and she fights to stay above water in a vast sea of loneliness. Desiree is happy with her school and social life, but at home her mother is too depressed to pay much attention to her. Desiree can’t rely on her mother to protect her. Ariel’s got a good relationship with her mother, but she’s in danger of falling under the control of a boy who wants to monopolize every minute of her time for himself.
Each story is told from the point of view of the girls when they were 16, and seeing the continuity between generations is both painful and hopeful. Can these women and girls escape their pasts and their present circumstances and find a way to be stronger and support each other?
Blue Plate Special should provide great discussions for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 14 and older. Issues to talk about include finding a feeling of self-worth, what is the difference between being loved and being controlled by someone, and overcoming obstacles to provide a safe, loving environment for your children. This book gets stronger as it goes along. The stories are very simple, but very powerful, I highly recommend it.
Check the author’s website, http://www.michelledkwasney.com/, to read the first three chapters, which introduce each of the three characters, or listen to an audio excerpt. The downloadable discussion guide also has great questions, including this one that would be interesting in a mother-daughter book club:
“It’s hard for us to imagine what our mothers and grandmothers were like as teenagers. If you had the chance to travel back in time and meet your mom or grandma when they were your age, would you do it? What questions would you ask them?”