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K. Brooks

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    I'm a wife and mother of four and I live in South Bend, Indiana.

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  1. Story statement Cady McLeod struggles to realize her potential and find where she belongs. Antagonistic force There are three antagonistic forces. Della is Cady’s neighbor and best friend. While Cady is motherless with an alcoholic father and bears the responsibility of caring for her younger sister, Della is the only child of doting parents and accustomed to being the center of attention. As teens, jealousy is sparked when Cady begins dating Della’s favorite cousin and their focus shifts from her to one another. When Cady becomes pregnant, Della turns a cold shoulder, shaming and secretly sabotaging her. Only after her goal is accomplished does she welcome Cady back, and years later, unable to resist adoration, she delights in the opportunity to act as savior to Cady by giving her a place to live despite the risk of her deception being uncovered. Cady’s father turns to alcohol to cope when his wife and baby die causing Cady to grow up too quickly. He spends most of his time at work or the local bar. As a result of his emotional unavailability, Cady seeks validation elsewhere and finds herself pregnant. Despite her efforts to manage her situation herself, when her father finds out, he sends her away to a Catholic home for unwed mothers, giving her no options or voice of her own. The childless, staunch Catholic Aunt Helen who Cady barely knows, practically a stranger, carries out the act of taking her to the home and returning her to her father’s house with little to no concern for the girl’s mental state. Title The Girl from Godforsaken Godforsaken Girl Belonging to Her The Long Winter Genre Historical Women's Fiction Coming-of-Age Comparables Historically speaking, my novel splits the difference between the following two books: The People We Keep by Allison Larkin: Set in the 1990s, I chose this book because of the similarities between this protagonist and Cady. Like my story, this one is about a girl with a love of 60s music, abandoned by her parents at a young age, who forges her own way, finds a new home, and creates her own family. It illustrates well the complicated dynamics of family dysfunction and love. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate: I chose this book for the part set at the end of the Depression era where several children are left alone on a shantyboat, the oldest of whom assumes responsibility of her siblings when they are sent to an orphanage. My search for another work of fiction that described Vietnam-era American homes for unwed mothers proved fruitless, but there are enough similarities in these experiences (i.e. isolation, cruelty, splitting up family members) that I felt it made for a good comparison. Hook Line: Eager to shed a decade of sacrifice, lost love, and broken promises, a grief-stricken young woman steps into the fall of 1976 with a fresh start in Chicago only to find herself walking right into the arms of a past that isn’t ready to let her go. Core Wounds: Abandonment and guilt Inner Conflict When her mother dies in their rural Michigan home, Cady’s father turns to alcohol to cope, leaving Cady (12) to shoulder the weight of caring for her sister and their home. Her once firm foundation is shaken so violently that there is almost a complete role reversal. Aside from paying the bills, Cady is forced to make the swift leap from dependent to caregiver without the benefit of a second thought for her own well-being. It is then when she learns that the people who love you are capable of leaving, whether it be intentional or not. Secondary Conflicts When Cady (now 15) meets Jim during the summer of ‘69 and begins to fall in love with him, she fears that he too will leave her, especially as he gets glimpses into her home life. She is reluctant to trust his intentions, nearly resigning herself to the belief that he will leave because it would be less painful to accept it early on. Finding out she is pregnant adds another layer of conflict as Cady must now race against the clock to ensure that she and Jim can stay together and somehow also provide a stable home for their baby and the sister she is unwilling to leave behind. She has no choice but to have faith that Jim will follow through with the plan he’s laid out to move them to Chicago to live with him as there are no alternatives that work in their favor. Cady is forcibly sent away to a Catholic home for unwed mothers, cut off from everyone she loves, and told her baby will be placed for adoption against her will. She encounters an unfamiliar religion and a foreign god she quickly learns to resent, told that her situation is punishment for her sins. An internal battle rages within her between the message she hears from the priest and nuns and what her heart knows to be true, that her baby was created in love. Setting Downtown Chicago (summer 1976) is bustling with activity. Sounds, lights, people, strange smells. The buildings tower overhead, especially the Sears Tower. Pigeons skitter, street musicians play. Della’s apartment is in the lowest level of a brick rowhouse. It is quieter there as the buildings block much of the city noise. The entry opens to the living room where there are two orange velvet recliners and a low coffee table. To the left of the entry is the small kitchen with an L-shaped counter and a tiny table and three chairs against the third wall. A barred kitchen window faces the street. Wood paneling and parquet flooring line all the common areas. Past the living room is the hallway. Della and George’s bedroom is on the left, then a bathroom with apple green double sinks. On the right is Cady’s pink bedroom which holds a wrought iron twin bed and a dresser. On the dresser is Cady’s record player and a box of her albums. There is a walk-in closet with a window to the courtyard in back. Lincoln Park, Chicago is where Della’s apartment is located. Down the street is a 5-way stop where Cady often finds Gus, a homeless man she’s befriended. At that intersection there is a small grocery with an awning under which Gus takes cover from the sun, a sandwich shop, a hot dog stand, and a bench. Before school is in session, people walk their kids through on the way to the zoo. Norah’s house is also in Lincoln Park, but on a street with detached homes. Hers is a brick Victorian with ivy ascending to the second story where there is a rounded tower. Inside the heavy door is a foyer with a grand staircase to the right. To the left is a sitting room with ornate, oversized furniture, a plush antique rug and a coffee table in front of a fireplace. The eat-in kitchen is in the back of the house. There is a peninsula dividing the space. A window with a macrame plant hanger faces the backyard. The wallpaper and four bucket chairs are avocado in color. The countertops and tabletop are white. There is a metal high chair off the table. Upstairs there is a long hallway. On the left is the guest bedroom, the nursery, then the master bedroom. Inside, the master has walls the color of “spiced tangerine” and a sturdy chestnut four-poster bed with sheer white drapes. Out back is a pergola and a seating area with wicker rockers. There is a small yard, fenced in with privacy fencing. The skating rink in Cady’s hometown is a plain, white cinder block building with a gravel parking lot. It’s one of the few places in the small town that has air conditioning. There is a large floor for skating and a counter to rent skates. Tables and benches are near the entrance. Cady’s childhood home is a small white bungalow with light blue trim. There is a good sized front porch with two rocking chairs and a little metal table between. Just inside the front door is the kitchen. The window above the sink faces out to the street. The countertops are Formica. There is a small table in the center of the room with four chairs. Off the kitchen is an open living room with a television set, two recliners, and a picture window. There is a hallway off the kitchen that goes to the bedrooms. The first door is Daddy’s room, a small room with a double bed that takes up most of the space, then at the end of the hall is the girls’ bedroom with a bathroom in between. Cady’s childhood bedroom has a double bed that she and Joey share. The wallpaper is pink with white pinstripes and little white flowers. There is a shelf that houses Cady’s record collection. Her record player sits on the dresser. A rocking chair sits in the corner, a remnant of story times with their mother. The room is in transition from little girls’ room to teenagers’ room. The window faces the side of the yard and the woods. The woods outside Cady’s house lead to a set of train tracks. There is an open space where the glow of a streetlight reaches. The beach Cady frequents is on the southwest coast of Michigan. There’s a good stretch of sand before the water line. The parking lot is tucked into a wooded area. The little town near Cady’s home is a typical Midwestern stretch of shops and a diner. There is a record shop, a bar. Probably one blinking stoplight in the center. The home for unwed mothers is an old school. Inside the double doors are two staircases, one up and one down. Downstairs is the cafeteria. Upstairs there are dormitories on either side of a wide corridor and between them is the nuns’ station. Cady’s room has two flimsy metal twin beds, cold brick walls, and a dim bathroom in which the amber light shorts. The beach near the home for unwed mothers is more open and not wooded. It’s located on Michigan’s northwest coast. It has a light coat of snow that blows in the wind and waves that crash and reach ten foot heights at the breakwall. Joey’s dorm room is a simple square with bunk beds against one wall and desks against the other. There is a television set between the desks.
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