A room is not much. It is not arms holding you. Not a kiss on the forehead. Not a packed lunch or a remembered birthday. Just a room. But for seventeen-year-old Zoe, struggling to shed the suffocating responsibility of her alcoholic mother and the controlling guilt of her grandmother, a rented room on Lorelei Street is a fierce grab for control of her own future. Zoe rents her room from Opal Keats, an eccentric old lady who has a difficult past of her own, but who chooses to live in the possibility of the future. Zoe tries to find that same possibility in her own future, promising that she will never go crawling back. But with all odds against her, can a seventeen-year-old with a job slinging hash make it on her own? Zoe struggles with this worry and the guilt of abandoning her mother as she goes to lengths that even she never dreamed she would in order to keep the room on Lorelei Street.
About the Author
Mary E. Pearson is the author of bestselling, award-winning novels for teens. The Miles Between was named a Kirkus Best Book of the Year, and The Adoration of Jenna Fox was listed as a Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year, an IRA Young Adult Choice, NYPL Stuff for the Teen Age, and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. She is also the author of A Room on Lorelei Street, David v. God, and Scribbler of Dreams.
Pearson studied at Long Beach State University and San Diego State University. She writes full-time from her home in Carlsbad, California, where she lives with her husband and two dogs.
Read an Excerpt
A ROOM ON LORELEI STREET (Chapter One)
It used to be a house.
You could almost have called it pretty.
She stares at chain-link threaded with weeds, a few of them blooming. Her vision blurs on white petals and regains focus on a patch of lawn the fence holds inor what might have been a lawn once. She can't remember that it has ever been green but knows it once was more than the dusty stubble it is now. She thinks about the rough texture between her toes, running across it, barefoot, with the hot Texas sun pressing down from above and a cool, lazy sprinkler refreshing from below. She remembers a six-year-old girl whose laughter came easy. She remembers but wonders, Was it ever really that way?
No pretense is made of throwing out a sprinkler now. It is not a house anymore. She knows that. The only life is in the weeds that live in the protection of the chain-link.
She throws down her cigarette and mashes it on the sidewalk, kicking it over with a pile of a dozen others. She breathes out one last, smoke-filled breath and almost smiles. There is still a little pretense left. She slips a peppermint into her mouth and lifts the latch of the gate. It groans, low and heavy, whispering, Don't go in. Don't go in.
But she does.
A ROOM ON LORELEI STREET Copyright © 2005 by Mary E. Pearson.
Reading Group Guide
1. Zoe experiences increased frustration with her mother. “I can’t. Not anymore. Not one more sentence, one more word, one more breath, or I will explode,” she thinks (p. 8). Discuss the dynamics of the relationship between Zoe and her mother. How does Zoe respond to her mother’s disrespect for her? How does she give her younger brother, Kyle, the compassion that she wishes her mother had given to her?
2. Zoe learns from Aunt Patsy that her name was chosen by her father and means “full of life.” What insight does this give about her father? What else does the reader learn about who this man was? How does what Aunt Patsy told her help Zoe find possibility during difficult times? Do you think that her name suits her?
3. When Zoe finally finds the courage to see the room for rent, Opal tells her, “You have an old soul” (p. 26). What does Opal mean by this statement? Is she correct? Why or why not?
4. Based on what has happened in Zoe’s life after her father’s death, why is the room on Lorelei Street so important to her? Does it meet the need she has for a space of her own? Why does she call it her “corner of control” (p. 112)?
5. Zoe suffers from internal conflict over the decision to move out of her mother’s house. She worries, “What will happen to Mama?” but she knows that “down to her marrow she needs this” (pp. 62, 76). How does she finally come to terms with her guilt about moving out? Do you think she made the right decision?
6. Zoe’s grandmother is furious with her for leaving, and she curses her for not returning to take care of her mother. What motivates Zoe’s grandmother’s anger? What is the result of her anger? Discuss the parts of the book where we see a more tender side of Zoe’s grandmother. How would Zoe and her grandmother each define family?
7. Even though Zoe is repulsed by the sleazy guy at the diner, she wonders if all he wants is to be noticed. “Isn’t that all anyone really wants— someone’s eyes to look into you instead of through you?” she wonders (p. 99). What does Zoe do to get noticed? Is she successful? Why do we feel the need to be noticed?
8. Zoe takes an extreme measure in her desperate attempt to keep the room and survive on her own. What were her other options? What do you predict for Zoe’s future?
9. “I took as much as I gave. Truly,” Opal tells Zoe when they say goodbye (p. 259). What do Zoe and Opal take from and give to each other?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Zo¿eeeee has an alcoholic mother who forgets a lot of little details, like paying rent. ¿A real room with real floors and walls. A room for sleeping and reading and dancing and¿in her imaginations she has pictured the room, but she has never seen herself in it.¿ (p. 22). Zoe is forced to deal with details. She pays the bills. She takes care of the car registration. She deals with the people who haven¿t been paid. And she is tired of being the adult. When Zoe decides to rent a room of her own, ¿She pauses, startled, but absorbed in the simple sensation of her feet on a smooth, clean floor. She looks around the room. Is it really hers? Clean. Empty of past. She sits on the window seat and props her feet on a lavender pillow. Before laundry, before anything, she needs to sit. She needs to be. Just be. She closes her eyes, leaning back against the alcove. Zoe. Zoe listening to evening chirps through an open window. Zoe fingering a golden tassel. Zoe tasting space. Zoe owning the room.¿ (p. 113). Zoe quickly discovers, however, that distancing herself physically from her family does NOT distance her emotionally and now she has rent to pay on top of all her emotional luggage. Pearson¿s book sings. Its exquisite language paints rooms and characters with vivid three-dimensional colors making it difficult to believe that we are reading fiction. A Room on Lorelei Street is a must buy for sophisticated high school readers and one of my early favorites for Printz consideration.
A young woman saddled with acting as caretaker for her alcoholic mother struggles to create a place and life of her own in a rented room.Zoe may only be seventeen, but she is old before her time. Having long ago assumed the role of parent for her fading, but still pretty mother, she struggles with wanting to be free of the responsibility and her need to make sure her mom is O.K. Coupled with her invisibility to other family members and guilt about her father's death, Zoe feels the need to make herself seen. This leads to self-destructive behaviors (like smoking and sleeping around) and impulsive actions when things get to be too much. One such action is renting a room from a friendly eccentric, which Zoe sees as a haven. However, it's hard for a seventeen year old with a part time job to live on her own, and bad decisions soon find Zoe broke and desperate.This book is very beautifully written. Zoe's voice is authentic, and the situation she finds herself in is heartbreakingly realistic. My main problem with this book is how predictable it was. I didn't feel surprised or shocked by any of Zoe's choices or the situation she found herself in; instead, there was just a sense of "it figures". As far as Teen Problem Novels go, you could do much worse, but don't spend a lot of time looking for novelty here.
Mary E. Pearson is the author of The Adoration of Jenna Fox, which is one of my favorite books.This book is right on the mark regarding a child of an alcoholic and the emotions as a result of a highly dysfunctional adult-- the guilt, the anger, the abandonment, the overwhelming struggle of sadness. Writing with this depth of power and knowledge is difficult to portray without experience, and therefore I believe the author might have real life experience regarding this complicated issue.When seventeen year old Zoe simply can no longer accept the terrible life of enabling and taking care of her alcoholic mother, somehow she finds the courage to rent "a room of her own."Both mother and father were alcoholics. When her father dies, her mother spins more and more out of control. Responsible for her little brother, Zoe's heart aches when he is taken away and raised by family members who want him, but claim there is no room for her. Left behind, Zoe's grandmother demands that Zoe be responsible for Zoe's mother.The grandmother is a real piece of work -- a manipulator, a user and abuser. Emotionally trying to thwart Zoe's independence, Zoe remains strong.This is a wonderful story of hope, of struggle and of courage. Zoe longed for things many children take for granted. She desperately wanted not to pay the bills for her mother. She wanted a mother who could go to work and function. She wanted a parent to attend school functions. She wanted someone to love her, to listen to her rather than self absorption and neglect.Zoe is strong. She is a survivor. I loved and related to Zoe.This is well written and highly recommended!Five Stars
Its a good book but it swears badly ALOT and talks about awkward stuff.
Its hard to get into
I read this book for fun this summer. It was the perfect 'beach read'. I enjoyed it very much, and I'm sure other people will too. I usually hate reading and only do it when it is necessary, but I gave this book a chance and it turned out to be worth the read.