Allie and Bea by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Of late, widowhood has not been kind to Bea.  She’s been coasting on her modest Socialallie and bea Security check and a dwindling savings account.  Then Bea is scammed by a purported IRS caller who cleans her last savings out; she has nothing else other than her cat, an aged van, and her favorite recliner, and she heads up the California coast for some scamming of her own.

To her credit, one can’t call Bea greedy.  Her lifestyle, bare-boned to begin with, becomes even more basic; she learns the joys of rest area sponge baths, cheap meals, and the occasional hocking of stolen cell phones.

Allie is a privileged teenager.  She doesn’t lack for much, but I wouldn’t call her completely spoiled.  She has some amazing convictions for someone of fifteen years, but her outlook is still cushioned by her parents’ income.

Her idyllic life comes an abrupt end when tax fraud charges are brought on both her parents, and Social Services places Allie in a group home.  This doesn’t work out too well, as her roommate is the home’s tough girl who threatens Allie.  Allie leaves with another girl, but this gets her in even worse straits – bad enough to run in front of Bea’s aged van.

So begins an unlikely friendship of sorts.

At first, they don’t like each other very much.  Bea, barely hanging on until her next Social Security check (wisely started in a different account), sees Allie as another hindrance.  Allie views Bea as stodgy and calls her out for her petty scams.  As the two gradually work out an alliance, the charms of the west coast work their magic and they finally meet some genuinely kind people.  The trip changes them both – Bea gets to be more open-minded, and Allie, mature to a point, learns the finer points of patience and resourcefulness.

Allie and Bea looked to fall in the “Sweet Little Book” category, but the author holds back on the sentimentality.  Her approach to character development is quiet and gradual, and as such, the narrative takes a little awhile to get moving, but move it does, and you will cheer on the two with each new curve of the road.

Would I recommend Allie and Bea?  Yes!  For those who like books about hard knocks and hard travelling, cross-generational communications, and the fabulous coastal highways out west, keep reading.  The book is a fairly quick read (excellent for a beach vacation) and is feel-good without being syrupy.

(William Hicks, Information Services)



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