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Massachusetts, California, Timbuktu

by Stephanie Rosenfeld

Massachusetts, California, Timbuktu
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2003, 388 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2004, 416 pages

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There are currently 4 reader reviews for Massachusetts, California, Timbuktu
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beverly bridges (08/16/10)

massachusetts, california, timbuktu
The book was very good and yet I had a problem because the word "WEIRD" appeared so often in it that I obsessively looked for"weird" and it was used on almost every other page which was a huge distraction for me. I hope Ms. Rosenfeld will notice now and use another word in the place of "it"...I will read her first book What About the Love Part? and I hope she leaves "weird" out but I'll bet not.
Rebecca Sullivan (12/27/04)


I picked up this book over the holidays, looking for some light reading, and was pleased to find myself immersed in the story over the course of two or three evenings. Rosenfeld's writing is hilarious throughout the first half, and while the story does dip into the depressing, I was never repelled by its occasional bleakness.

Justine's narration is perhaps a bit precocious for a 12-yr-old girl, but on the other hand, it's possible that a strong, imaginative young woman could dissect her life in such colorful terms. It's true she feels sorry for herself, but that doesn't keep the reader from laughing at the absurdity of her mother's near-insanity and her little sister's tender naivete.

Rosenfeld pokes fun of the Mormons for an entire chapter, while enlightening the lay reader as to certain of their beliefs and cultural manifestations; as a former Mormon I found it entertaining, though I sensed little affection for the state where Rosenfeld now makes her home. She has obviously been saving up her knowledge of Mormon trivia for some time, and we are presented with all of the weirdest Mormon antics she can think of, within a very short time. Everyone knows a family like the Monsons, don't they, whose eight children all have names beginning with "M." To sum up the LDS church: "it was a religion that couldn't drink coffee, Coke, or beer or smoke cigarettes; their mascot was the bee; and the men talked to God and then told the people who God wanted them to vote for, and not to be gay, and things like that."

In any case, this story is encompasses two journeys, one headed east, and one headed west. I prefer the "real" story, of the loving yet inept mother and her two young daughters heading east to find something better, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good giggle and a few scattered tears.
Meg (12/23/04)

This book had its points, but in general I found it overblown and somewhat tedious. At one point, Justine walks quite a distance in the November night, cold, dark and snowy, in her socks, to get to a quick mart to buy food for herself and her five-year-old sister, since her mother is collapsed in depression.

Give me a break.

I would have liked this book better if it hadn't been so extreme. Colleen, the mother, regularly makes poor and impulsive decisions, which impact horribly on her two young daughters. She seems totally oblivious to their needs. Even worse, she continually lies to them about what is happening and why she is doing what she is doing. Even when Ron enters their life, Colleen never even thinks about turning a corner, facing a problem or coping in a healthy fashion.

I found it difficult to slog through the nearly 400 pages because the story is so unremittingly gray. It would have kept my attention better if Colleen had made an effort to face her problems or take some constructive steps. It was hard to watch her continually sink further into her problems and delusions, and to watch Justine continually trying to cope with her mother's depression and her crazy and irresponsible behavior.

I did enjoy "Zebulina's" pioneer diary, interspersed in the story. The anomalies were particularly charming and brought a much-needed smile to my face.

Had there been more light in the book, more hope, perhaps a time when Colleen would rally and try to cope and take care of her daughters, even if she failed, I would have found the book more believable and more interesting.

Stephanie (09/02/03)

This book is one of the best I think I have ever read. I just love the point of view it's coming from and Justine's thoughts.
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