I typically only read newly released books, but I've been in such a reading dry spell lately that I decided to go back and revisit an older book that I had on hand at one time and had to return to the library when my reading list got too full: Once Upon a Day by Lisa Tucker.
When Dorothea O'Brien was four years old, her father, a wealthy and famous Hollywood movie director, moved her and her six-year-old brother Jimmy away from L.A. to a secluded estate in New Mexico. Dubbed "The Sanctuary," the two children grew up with no contact with the outside world. Food was delivered in, they were homeschooled, and the house had neither a television nor a telephone. Their intensely protective father, so worried about harm to them, allowed only timed visits outside the house.
Convinced that nothing good happened in this country past the 1950s, Dorothea's father stopped there with his teaching of the history of the world. Thus, the two children are stuck in a time warp, with their only knowledge of anything beyond their home coming from encyclopedias.
While it's the only life Dorothea has ever known, and she accepts it, it's not enough for her brother, and he runs away at 25 to search for his mother, who they had been told had died. When their father becomes ill, Dorothea leaves to find Jimmy and bring him home, after several years away, stepping outside into a world completely unfamiliar to her.
Her journey brings a realization of what she's been protected from, good and bad, and as her world opens up, so do her eyes. She will ultimately learn what led her family to New Mexico and the reasons behind her father's odd decisions and actions. But while it is Dorothea's story on the outset, the bulk of the book is actually her mother's story, as we find out exactly what happened to her.
This book was immediately and consistently engaging, with a compelling story that had me reading it straight through. Tucker's writing style and character development skills are to be admired. Dorothea's disbelief and lack of knowledge about the world was carried through very well, reminding me a lot of Darryl Hannah's character in Splash.
I'm so excited about this author that I'm off to read her latest, The Cure for Modern Life...