An Ordinary Girl is a book we have all been waiting for – an honest, often humorous, but heart-wrenching novel about a young girl’s journey into adulthood. We live with Theresa O’Brien as she struggles though an early life with alcoholic parents, an undiagnosed learning disability, and strong desire to make her life appear perfect.
We travel with Theresa as she becomes an adult, experiencing her obsessions, denials and perfections. The author allows us to develop a love/hate relationship with Alfred, her on-again/off-again supportive husband as they struggle through miscarriages, unemployment, and their son, William’s illness. As a successful college professor, mother of four, school board member and special education advocate, we connect with Theresa’s inner world; her close knit book club members, the married couples from her supper club, daily walking partners, yoga classmates, and loyal and supportive high school classmates. It is through these friendships that Theresa is able to deny her need for perfection and embrace the beautiful woman she becomes.
She stood at stared at the headstone. She wasn’t sure why the tears quietly rolled down her check. She stood there in silence. The cool, crisp air around her gave her a chill and she zipped her Northface jacket closed. She felt a sense of closeness to the person who was laid beneath her feet; put there over thirty some odd years before. As she started to identify the reasons for her tears; more came. She felt guilty that she had never been there before; she actually never even knew where her mother was buried. She was angry that her mother never let her have a relationship with her; sad that she had a life without her own mother even when her mother was alive; embarrassed in front of her husband who stood silently by her side. For some unknown reason; Teresa was asking for forgiveness from her mother. More tears flowed and she wondered how her tears could be simply flowing out of her eyes so quietly and so quickly. She was both angry and sad that she was asking for some sort of forgiveness . After all, she really wanted to forgive her mother for leaving her; for making her feel she wasn’t worth anything; for making her have to explain to every person she ever met that she didn’t have a mother; even when she was alive. “How can I be angry with someone who isn’t even alive”? she wondered. Danny knelt in the damp grass next to her and began to pray. That made her even angrier but she wasn’t sure why. “He’s saying a prayer for someone he didn’t even know” and I can’t do that and she was my mother. She made a fist by her side; embarrassed at her physical display of anger. Danny knew enough not to say anything to her even though he saw her fists and tears. She respected that about him, after being married for 30 years he knew her well. She came for closure, she thought. She wasn’t sure what ‘having closure’ was, but she knew enough that this wasn’t quite closure for her. She blew her nose with a tissue she pulled from her jeans. When she started to compose herself, she started to process the information she read on the headstone. “Who was Kevin O’Shea who died at 6 months old” Danny asked when he knew Teresa was getting herself together. The anger continued to build but Teresa wanted to learn more. She didn’t have an answer and was ashamed that her mother was buried in a grave with people she didn’t even know. “Well Teresa, you can get some information from the Cemetery’s main office where they keep all the records, he stated like a businessman. “Do you want to go up there now. Maybe you can even find out who owns the plot and get some more information that way too.” Teresa listened to his voice thinking that for the first time in her life he seemed almost afraid to speak. He put his arms around her and hugged her tight without saying a word. More tears flowed from Teresa as they walked quietly to the car and drove in the direction of the main office.