Saturday, October 1, 2016

“It might as well be the North Pole.” BSC #131: The Fire at Mary Anne’s House (1999)

Well, the title and cover are kind of spoilers, aren’t they?

I’m sure no one is surprised to find out that Mary Anne’s house burns to the ground in this book. It comes at a time of change for the Spiers anyway. Richard was just offered a job in Philadelphia, and Sharon wants to change careers. They figure they’ll move to Philly and get a fresh start. But Mary Anne, who takes the fire very stoically, isn’t up for the move. In the end, it’s actually still up in the air.
Meanwhile, the BSC had planned to enter a ‘sitter of the year’ contest in some magazine. When the fire happens, they forget all about it, so their clients work together and mail the entry in for them. 
Interesting Tidbits
I can’t imagine that Richard allows Logan into Mary Anne’s bedroom, which is probably for the best. After all, MA reveals she has a collage of Cam Geary pictures. I was/still am more of a ‘collage of random thoughts/affirmations/pictures’ kind of girl, but I can’t imagine Logan would be too happy to find out just how many pictures of ol’ Cam MA has…
OOH! Sharon-itis in the very first chapter! Mary Anne has found Sharon’s socks in the linen closet, the crisper in the fridge, and the china cabinet.
It bothers me that the ghostwriters like to make the same jokes over and over again. In this case, it’s the old “I-don’t-know-one-sport-from-another” line where Mary Anne says something about winning the World Series after Kristy is playing waste-basket basketball.
In this book, the BSC is out of school for the summer, yet Mallory isn’t back from Massachusetts. I haven’t read that one yet, but I know one of the FF books has the opposite be true: Mal comes home before everyone else is out of school, and is truly bored.
Mary Anne is rereading the club notebook and a lot of BSC clip show stuff comes by, with references to old plots. I’m really tempted to try to figure out what book each of these comes from and pull the book out and see if it’s just copy/paste, or if these notebook entries are all new. (Also, some of them are so generic, like Dawn writing about sitting for Jackie R, that I could never figure out where they came from…)
Plots I actually can narrow down a book for: #100, M#4, #9, #22, #24, M#36.
I remember feeling like this growing up (and sometimes even now). Charlotte: “What does testimonial mean again? I think I know, but not really.”
The chapter with the fire starts off very reflective, asking the kinds of questions people ask after a life-changing event: If I’d known, would I have done anything differently? It’s very deep, and not normal for the BSC members….
I think this is the first time Sharon’s job has been filled out in any way. She currently works for an accountant, and she hates her job.
Sharon-itis: keys in the silverware drawer
Mary Anne’s idea of a good morning? Browsing the LL Bean catalogue. Whoa, there, MA. Stop being so wild and crazy!
Logan and Mary Anne have a picnic in the barn. Some part of me wants to point out that you can do the exact same things in the barn that you can in the house. It would just be dirtier. Oh, and they take turns jumping from the hay loft, which MA says she hasn’t done in years. Umm…she met Dawn halfway through seventh grade and just finished eighth grade. How is that ‘years?’ (I mean, I know she met Dawn in like, 1987, but seriously.)
MA is rereading My Side of the Mountain.
The whole thing with MA’s house actually burning down is sad, and I don’t have many comments. Just…it’s very lucky that Tigger didn’t get scared and claw his way out of Mary Anne’s arms. That would have been very realistic, and he probably wouldn’t have made it out of the house safely. Also, once again, someone has no idea what ‘stop drop and roll’ means. Richard tells MA to ‘drop and roll’ to stay under the smoke. But stop drop and roll is what you do when you’re on fire, not how to get under smoke.
People keep hugging MA and all I could think is…where’s Tigger? If my neighbor’s house went up in flames and I saw them struggling to hold their pet, I’d offer my bathroom to lock it up in temporarily, but no one mentions him. It’s almost as if MA just put him down and forgot about him in her shock. (Later she mentions holding him for quite a while, and that he stayed near her when she finally put him down. And after the fire is out, Mrs. Brewer takes him to her house to keep him safe.)
Most of the neighbors just stand there and watch the fire, but some of them are pretty awesome. Stacey is the BSC member who lives closest to MA. MA refuses to leave the fire, wanting to see what happens, so Stacey brings her a coat and a backpack with a change of clothes, and make sandwiches for the Spiers and the firefighters. Mrs. Prezzioso actually lends the Spiers her cell phone to make phone calls, telling them to hang on to it as long as they need to. Someone brought whatever shoes they could find that would fit the family, too.
Umm. Richard keeps a notepad in his car, and he and Sharon note that it’s a good thing they didn’t park too close to the house. All I can think is, do they leave their cars unlocked? How are they going to drive those cars? I can’t imagine Richard keeps a set of keys in his pajama pockets.
I’ve never understood this one. The Spiers are homeless. They’ve literally lost almost everything, and they don’t even know where they’re spending that night. And Dawn’s first response is to…get on a plane and fly out so that she can be homeless too? Even dumber…Dawn’s apparently old enough and mature enough to go on this trip, but Jeff’s not.
I wanted to cry reading the part of the book where the Spiers walk through the house for the first time after it burns down. It was the way they kept finding small things that were now gone. It wasn’t just all of Sharon’s pictures of Jeff and Dawn, which is a huge loss, but little things like the tin can covered in macaroni that MA made for Richard in kindergarten and the large collection of spices Sharon had amassed in the kitchen.
You know Byron’s upset when Jessi and Abby are sitting, because he’s not eating his breakfast. And then there’s Vanessa, who’s all worried about the ‘tragedy of Mary Anne’s life.’
Kristy tries to treat Mary Anne the way she would treat someone if their house burns down, but MA tells her to stop. She says, “you’re scaring me,” because Kristy's not being herself.
How big is Kristy’s house, exactly? I know that question has come up before. But each member of the family (except Watson and Elizabeth) have their own room, which makes nine bedrooms. And there’s still room for Sharon and Richard to have a room with its own private bathroom, and MA and Dawn to share yet another room. The description of the room MA is in (pink curtains and striped wall paper) does make me think that maybe they temporarily moved Karen and Emily in together, but not necessarily.
This was funny in the midst of all the sorrow. The Brewer-Thomas house is very crowded and noisy, and the Spier-Schafer contingent just aren’t used to it. They tried to have a quiet breakfast in the sunroom, but just kept being interrupted. The next day, when they went to go back in, Karen announced that Emily Jr. (her pet rat) was running around in there for her weekly fitness time. With nowhere else to go, they end up in the kids’ playhouse in the backyard, sitting in child sized chairs around a tiny table.
Claudia spelling! And…Kristy spelling? Claudia: thouhgt, definately, excellant, univers, softee. Kristy, meanwhile, spells speechless as speechles.
Interesting mistake: there’s a reference to the Pike Plague, only it’s referred to as the time they all had the chicken pox. Only…they didn’t all have the chicken pox. Mal did, and I think Margo and Claire did too. Nicky and Vanessa injured themselves in other ways (I remember Vanessa sprained her ankle falling off her bike), and the triplets had some respiratory thing (like bronchitis.) Is it really sad that I remember all that? It’s always been one of my favorite plots, though.
The title quote is Kristy’s reaction to learning that the Spiers might move to Philly.
As the book goes on and Mary Anne still isn’t crying, all I can think is that maybe she’s got posttraumatic stress disorder. But it’s only been a couple of days, so she could still be in denial. And then the nightmares start… I know everyone in the book—Kristy, Logan, Dawn—is worried about her lack of emotion, but once again, it’s completely normal! It’s not regular Mary Anne, but as I read, it’s obvious that Mary Anne can never go back to who she used to be.
I actually like that the book ends on a cliffhanger. The note from AMM at the end specifies that the series is ending and the FF series starting soon, so it’s not like The Face on the Milk Carton where so many preteen girls wanted to strangle Caroline Cooney for several years until she released the sequel. Plus, it’s so much more realistic: not much gets wrapped up in fifteen neat chapters in the real world.
Mary Anne: red plaid bathrobe; pjs covered in kittens; jeans and a sweatshirt
Sharon: holey green shirt, gray boxers
Richard: red plaid pajamas (do they match MA’s bathrobe?!)
Next: Everything Changes

1 comment:

  1. I really liked how the neighbors were shown helping out. Excellent point about Tigger, though!