BOOK REVIEW: 'The Gap Year': Parenting Is An Impossible Task -- And Then It Gets Worse When Your Offspring Is a High School Senior

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

BOOK REVIEW: 'The Gap Year': Parenting Is An Impossible Task -- And Then It Gets Worse When Your Offspring Is a High School Senior

As a nonparent, all I know about parenting I've learned from my siblings, my friends and colleagues, and my friend, California entertainment maven turned parenting advice columnist Bruce Sallan.

So it was part of my continuing education, not to mention entertainment, that I picked up and read Sarah Bird's  new novel "The Gap Year" (Knopf, 320 pages, $25.95). I wasn't disappointed; it's educational and and fun to read, laugh-out-loud fun at times, all in one page-turner novel.

I had never heard of the phrase "the gap year": It turns out that it's any amount of time when your son or daughter -- in the case of Bird's protagonist Camille "Cam" Lightsey -- has graduated from high school and is not yet enrolled in college. 

A gap year sounds like it should be a period where you take a break from formal education and find yourself. The trouble with Cam's  17-year-old daughter Aubrey (no, not Audrey, Aubrey...why do parents saddle their kids with impossible names?) is that she's finding herself in ways that are driving divorced single-mother Cam crazy.
Aubrey is not only reluctant to attend the Pacific Northwest college they've both decided on, she's morphed from being a good-grades band geek to wannabe sultry temptress to land football quarterback Tyler Moldenhauer. With chapters alternating between Aubrey's account of her senior year and Cam's chronicle of the year after, we get the full spectrum of suburban discontents.

 Even worse, Cam who's still in love with her ex-husband, Martin -- carrying a torch is the cliche term -- discovers that Aubrey’s been  in online contact with Martin, who left when she was two to join a celebrity-ridden cult.

Yes, lactation consultant Cam (now there's a first for me, learning that there is such a profession) has her proverbial hands full. Luckily, she gets a little help from her friend, Dori Chotzinoff, Rhoda to her Mary, Michele Weinberg (Lisa Kudrow)  to her Romy White (Mira Sorvino -- in the 1997 flick"Romy and Michele's High School Reunion"). Dori has a daughter, Twyla, who dropped out a year ago to "tour" with Dori's ex-husband and his Aerosmith tribute band, so she's an understanding friend.

Things are not as they seem with virtually all of the people in the novel, most especially Tyler. It's a trip, appropriate for the recovering hippie that Cam is and always will be. "The Gap Year" is full of laughter and some tears. 

About the Author

Sarah Bird, is the author of seven previous novels -- including  How Perfect Is That, The Flamenco Academy, and The Yokota Officers Club -- was born in 1949 in Ann Arbor, MI.  She attended the University of New Mexico, earning her B.A. there in 1973.  Moving to the University of Texas at Austin,  she went on to receive an MA in journalism there in 1976. She is married to George Jones, and has one son, Gabriel Bird-Jones, born in 1989. The family lives in Austin, Texas. Her website is

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