The Plot: Delilah Hannaford, almost seventeen, is in a car headed from Pennsylvania to Vermont. It’s been eight years since she’s been to her mother’s hometown. Back then, it was for her beloved grandfather’s funeral. Because of a fight between her mother, aunt, and grandmother, Delilah has never been back and hasn’t even talked to her grandmother since. Now, Delilah and her mother are heading home. To bury her grandmother. And to discover that secrets can pull families apart and truth, no matter how painful, can heal.
The Good: Family secrets? Including an almost decade-long feud? And a summer spent cleaning out the dead grandmother’s house? It’s easy to tell why I moved this book to the top of my to-be-read pile.
What moved it to my “favorite books read in 2010” list? Fixing Delilah is not “oh noes, this thing happened eight years ago, here it is eight years later, sorry, all better now.” Oh, the book begins eight years later and yes, something happened, and yes, the three women work towards reconciliation. The family argument splintered the family, with Delilah’s mother and aunt barely speaking, but it splintered a family that already was broken. As we find out from Delilah, she, her mother, and her aunt are not unscarred or untouched by the eight years and what came before. Delilah and her mother have issues that link back to before the fight. The fight is not “the event”; it’s one event in family dynamics and dysfunction.
Delilah’s past year has been turbulent: sneaking out at night to meet her “not boyfriend” Finn, shoplifting, denting her mother’s car, and that is not even getting into her grades and issues with her so-called friends. Meanwhile, her mother, Claire, has become a workaholic. Yes, her mother has turned her life around from being a struggling single mother to a successful business woman, but she also never takes a break, multitasking even when home. The two are almost strangers.
Slowly, Delilah reveals the things about her life, her mother’s life, that are the secrets that keep the family apart. Her Aunt Stephanie’s death at nineteen. Her birth father and the one-night stand before his death that resulted in Delilah. And, of course, the fight with her grandmother that tore the family apart. Delilah, her mother, and her Aunt Rachel are now thrown together to clear out the family home and get it ready for sale. In putting the house back together, they also put their family together.
Along the way there is romance; literally, a boy next door. And a true friend. Is it too coincidence, too serendipitous that this summer brings love and friendship? No. Delilah cannot heal – cannot open herself up to truly connecting with others – until she works out things with her family. As that healing happens, she allows a friend and a boy fully into her life. It’s not easy, and not without hiccups, but then, healing and change never are.
How does this compare to Ockler’s first book, Twenty Boy Summer? You know the scene in the film, 10 Things I Hate About You, about the difference between love and like? Bianca says “There’s a difference between like and love. Because, I like my Skechers, but I love my Prada backpack. “ Chastity replies, “But I love my Skechers.” Bianca explains, “That’s because you don’t have a Prada backpack.” Twenty Boy Summer is Skechers, and Fixing Delilah is a Prada backpack.