I had a professor in college who stopped class one day – actually stopped her lecture to read to us from the dictionary – when a student misused the word “ambivalent.” The student thought “ambivalent” meant “not caring very much about something either way,” but it turns out that the word means “feeling really strongly both ways about something at the same time.”
The passage at the end of chapter forty-seven brought the word “ambivalent” to mind:
Grandio launched a big long rant about Mommers that rose and fell all that afternoon and through our meat loaf dinner. “I could have made that call, I tell ya!” He filled one cheek with potatoes. “One hot second and I would have reported her. Taught her to respect the laws that–”
“Stop!” My own voice rang back at me. “I can’t stand it if you keep going on about her! I can’t!” I burned with tears and silence for the next few seconds. I expectedc him to shout back at me, but he didn’t.
He finally ducked his head and mumbled, “You’re right, girl. That’s it. I’m done with it now.”
Somehow, I knew he meant it.
I can’t imagine how it must feel to be a in a situation like Addie’s. She knows that she can’t count on Mommers; she knows that she isn’t safe with Mommers. At the same time, Mommers is her mother, and they did have some genuinely good times together – though not many. It seems to me like this must be the ultimate example of ambivalence – desperately loving and desperately hating a person all at the same time.
I’ll confess to feeling ambivalent, myself, about the ending of Waiting for Normal. I love that Addie ended up with Dwight, and I love the idea of Addie, the Littles, Dwight, and Hannah building a true family and home. I also love that Leslie Connor didn’t tie all the ends up in a pretty little bow; she left Addie feeling conflicted about some things, and she left Mommers about to have a new baby. I don’t like stories that end fakey-perfectly, so I appreciated the uncertainty.
At the same time, though, I’m really frustrated by some of mysteries that were never explained about Mommers. What was this job with the office supplies, exactly? What was she doing when she was gone for days at a time? I have suspicions about some of it, but my guesses were never confirmed. I know this is Addie’s story, but I really, really wanted to know about what was really going on with Mommers.
What do you think about the end of the story? What do you think will happen next in Addie’s life? In Mommers’ life? Brynna’s? (I find myself oddly interested in the character of Brynna.) What will Elliot do without Soula? What will things be like for Mommers’ new baby?
By the way, this evening’s posts are my last . . . and in fitting with our theme, I’m feeling rather ambivalent about that! Life is getting busy for me these days, so I’ll be glad of one less responsibility, but I’m also going to miss the kind of thinking that goes into the Together blog. I hope to facilitate sometime again, perhaps in the summer, when a teacher’s life slows down.
Here’s hoping you’ve all enjoyed your experience with Waiting for Normal.