by Patricia Rice

December 2004
ISBN: 0-8041-1984-8
Reviewer Graphic Button Ivy Books
Mass Market Paperback

Alys Seagraves' first twenty-seven years of life have had more downs than ups. Her parents and her husband all died within two years. Her parents were forty when Alys was born, and in a rare fit of fancy, gave her the unusual spelling of her first name. Alys' husband died slowly and painfully from cancer, so it is still hard, even after two years, to remember the good times they had and not just the illness. Mame of Mame's School of Alternative Life Lessons has helped Alys learn to cope. Now it is Alys' turn to help Mame. Mame has suffered a heart attack and Alys is standing watch until Elliot, Mame's nephew, arrives.

Elliot and his brothers were raised by Mame after their parents were killed in a car wreck brought on by their father's heart attack at the wheel at the age of thirty-five. Elliot has become a doctor, but does not have a practice. Instead, he has a radio show with the name of "Dr. Nice".

After Elliot arrives and tries to get things in order for his beloved aunt, it is discovered Mame has made a daring escape from the hospital. Alys and Mame had plans to take a trip on Route 66 to remember Mame's honeymoon and travels with her late husband and also to help an old friend of Mame's. Since Alys knows the trip plans, she and Elliot start out on their own road trip to find Mame.

California Girl takes the reader on a rollicking ride with equal measures of humor and heartbreaking poignancy. Alys, understandably, has an enormous amount of emotional baggage that would be difficult for even the strongest person. The author deals with Alys' grief in an authentic manner. Elliot seems to have just as much baggage, as he is afraid to have a permanent relationship. He fears he is a candidate for an early heart attack with his family history. Mame is cantankerous, but totally lovable. She is the sort of woman you would want as a friend, no matter what age you are. All the characters are well defined and the settings come to life with vivid descriptions.

There are some sizzling love scenes, but there is even more evidence of the healing power of love and the importance of family in many forms. California Girl will warm your heart and make you want to go on your own sentimental journey.

Reviewed in December 2004 by Roberta.

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