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I know I’ve said this so many times this year, but this is my new favorite story, especially since it took me a long time to warm up to Lee Smith.  Through the narration we understand that Karen is lonely, she is trying to find a place in the world that she’s accepted and noticed.  She was daddy’s little girl — that’s how she defines herself — and since her father had his mental breakdown (which she notes over and over again, calling it by name, emphasizing the fact that she needs to really come to terms with it because her mother won’t even say the word or explain it) she turns towards religion.  When she drops it like a hot potato after receiving negative attention for it how much she really wants to fit in.  Whether she is using church for a sense of community, or she is trying to find acceptance from God, she cares enough about how the town views her that she steps away from it in an attempt to better fit in.  But she also wants to be noticed and unique, she wants to be saved, and she wants her family to love her.  She is so suppressed by her mother’s idea of how to be perfect, and how to be a lady. which the narrator embodies but doesn’t feel unique.

The character identifies with her new friend because they both dislike how they live.  They try and trade, and use each other as a means to explore the other side of the coin, what their living situations limits them from experiencing.  Plus, having someone else to share everything with makes it all the more exciting.    When we see her outgrow her clothes it just emphasizes how she’s grown in understanding, and she doesn’t simply accept the silence with the innocence of before.  She doesn’t fit into the clothes, she doesn’t fit into her old way of thinking.  Not for lack of trying, but she won’t fit into the country club lifestyle that her mother strives for, either.  Everything she says, everything about her mother and her opinions on the smallest things, foods she likes and foods she doesn’t like, explains so much about her.  I loved when she talked about lady food, and how the crunchy cream of mushroom casserole was “lady food”, when we have seen in other stories that this is pretty much a staple dish and not only made by ladies.  I felt sorry for the narrator, she is young and pulled in so many directions, she’s naive, but she’s got a strength that allows her to try to break the mold and figure her own way.

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