In Search of Mockingbird by Loretta Ellsworth
Soon to be sixteen year old Erin has never met her mother, she knows nothing about her…except that her favorite book is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. In desperate need to get to know and understand her long deceased mother, Erin reads and re-reads “Mockingbird” over and over, toting the book everywhere she goes. She’s called weird and freak because of it, even by her own brothers.
So what if people call her a freak? As long as she has Mockingbird she’s okay. At least she seems to be before her father breaks the news of his engagement to long-time girlfriend Susan. Erin is happy for her father, she really is. But it seems so … sudden. Not knowing what to do or say, Erin retreats to her room, and holes up until her father gives Erin her birthday gift: her mother’s diary. Fueled by anger, Erin quickly packs a book bag filled with clothes, the diary, and the greyhound bus schedule. She’s decided to leave home in search of Mockingbird (literally), in search of Harper Lee.
On the bus, between reading the diary and Mockingbird, Erin meets a cast of characters who change her life, whether she realizes it or not. First there’s Sedusha, a stripper who’s lost all contact with her son, Boomer, who desperately dreams of their loving reunion. In Sedusha Erin finds an understanding companion, and in Erin Sedusha finds a link to connect her with her son. Then there’s Eb, an overweight, wanna be video game creator, who treats Erin as a little sister, treating her better than her real brothers do. Eb urges Erin to continue on her journey, and in return she inspires him to seek out his very own dreams, no matter how far-fetched they seem.
Author of In Search of Mockingbird, Loretta Ellsworth has written a what appears to be a very realistic novel. This, unlike most novels that portray runaway plotlines, Ellsworth’s isn’t as bleak as would be expected. Surprisingly, Erin’s story is positive, even if it’s unrealistic. Erin meets wholesomely good-natured beings who care for her, she has made, not friends, but extended family, and her own father is only mildly upset, as if he understands why she has runaway.
Well written, Ellsworth has created a plot that any sixteen year old would want to live out. It’s a good read, and worth the time for any To Kill A Mockingbird fan*. What really makes this book appealing is that it’s written in journal style making it a believable read, and an accessible one. Avid readers and reluctant readers alike could find any aspect of In Search of Mockingbird enjoyable.
Throughout those journal entries, Ellsworth leaves budding hints of Erin’s development and growth. But readers will find that none of those buds will actually bloom. Even though it appears that Erin learns a thing or two about her mother, she learns them by reading the diary, not by traveling to Monroeville Alabama. Because of this Erin is a one-dimensional character that is relatable, but only on the surface. Even though she learns about her mother (which was the ultimate goal) she didn’t learn that she didn’t need to travel several hours and hundred miles to do it. It’s reminiscent of Dorothy traveling all the way to the Emerald City only to find out she had the power to go home at any given moment.
*I normally never do this, there were some aspect’s of the book/plot that irritated me … a lot. To Kill a Mockingbird fans can appreciate this book because this book and plot is fueled by Harper Lee’s classic tale. In fact it seems like it’s used more as a crutch move Erin’s story forward. Even though this book was enjoyable, it is personally felt that there were several flaws beyond the obvious ones (portraying running away in a positive light, and that all outcomes of running away will be as equally positive as Erin’s experience). Erin loved Scout as a character (who doesn’t?!), but I just felt that the reasons she was doing things was because she felt it was what Scout would have done if in the same position, and because of that I felt that Erin was trying too hard to be another character (going as far as to take Scout as her own nickname), when she wasn’t even sure who she really is.