A room is not much. It is not arms holding you. Not a kiss on the forehead. Not a packed lunch or a remembered birthday. Just a room. But for seventeen-year-old Zoe, struggling to shed the suffocating responsibility of her alcoholic mother and the controlling guilt of her grandmother, a rented room on Lorelei Street is a fierce grab for control of her own future. Zoe rents her room from Opal Keats, an eccentric old lady who has a difficult past of her own, but who chooses to live in the possibility of the future. Zoe tries to find that same possibility in her own future, promising that she will never go crawling back. But with all odds against her, can a seventeen-year-old with a job slinging hash make it on her own? Zoe struggles with this worry and the guilt of abandoning her mother as she goes to lengths that even she never dreamed she would in order to keep the room on Lorelei Street.
About the Author
Mary E. Pearson is the author of bestselling, award-winning novels for teens. The Miles Between was named a Kirkus Best Book of the Year, and The Adoration of Jenna Fox was listed as a Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year, an IRA Young Adult Choice, NYPL Stuff for the Teen Age, and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. She is also the author of A Room on Lorelei Street, David v. God, and Scribbler of Dreams.
Pearson studied at Long Beach State University and San Diego State University. She writes full-time from her home in Carlsbad, California, where she lives with her husband and two dogs.
Read an Excerpt
A ROOM ON LORELEI STREET (Chapter One)
It used to be a house.
You could almost have called it pretty.
She stares at chain-link threaded with weeds, a few of them blooming. Her vision blurs on white petals and regains focus on a patch of lawn the fence holds inor what might have been a lawn once. She can't remember that it has ever been green but knows it once was more than the dusty stubble it is now. She thinks about the rough texture between her toes, running across it, barefoot, with the hot Texas sun pressing down from above and a cool, lazy sprinkler refreshing from below. She remembers a six-year-old girl whose laughter came easy. She remembers but wonders, Was it ever really that way?
No pretense is made of throwing out a sprinkler now. It is not a house anymore. She knows that. The only life is in the weeds that live in the protection of the chain-link.
She throws down her cigarette and mashes it on the sidewalk, kicking it over with a pile of a dozen others. She breathes out one last, smoke-filled breath and almost smiles. There is still a little pretense left. She slips a peppermint into her mouth and lifts the latch of the gate. It groans, low and heavy, whispering, Don't go in. Don't go in.
But she does.
A ROOM ON LORELEI STREET Copyright © 2005 by Mary E. Pearson.
Reading Group Guide
1. Zoe experiences increased frustration with her mother. “I can’t. Not anymore. Not one more sentence, one more word, one more breath, or I will explode,” she thinks (p. 8). Discuss the dynamics of the relationship between Zoe and her mother. How does Zoe respond to her mother’s disrespect for her? How does she give her younger brother, Kyle, the compassion that she wishes her mother had given to her?
2. Zoe learns from Aunt Patsy that her name was chosen by her father and means “full of life.” What insight does this give about her father? What else does the reader learn about who this man was? How does what Aunt Patsy told her help Zoe find possibility during difficult times? Do you think that her name suits her?
3. When Zoe finally finds the courage to see the room for rent, Opal tells her, “You have an old soul” (p. 26). What does Opal mean by this statement? Is she correct? Why or why not?
4. Based on what has happened in Zoe’s life after her father’s death, why is the room on Lorelei Street so important to her? Does it meet the need she has for a space of her own? Why does she call it her “corner of control” (p. 112)?
5. Zoe suffers from internal conflict over the decision to move out of her mother’s house. She worries, “What will happen to Mama?” but she knows that “down to her marrow she needs this” (pp. 62, 76). How does she finally come to terms with her guilt about moving out? Do you think she made the right decision?
6. Zoe’s grandmother is furious with her for leaving, and she curses her for not returning to take care of her mother. What motivates Zoe’s grandmother’s anger? What is the result of her anger? Discuss the parts of the book where we see a more tender side of Zoe’s grandmother. How would Zoe and her grandmother each define family?
7. Even though Zoe is repulsed by the sleazy guy at the diner, she wonders if all he wants is to be noticed. “Isn’t that all anyone really wants— someone’s eyes to look into you instead of through you?” she wonders (p. 99). What does Zoe do to get noticed? Is she successful? Why do we feel the need to be noticed?
8. Zoe takes an extreme measure in her desperate attempt to keep the room and survive on her own. What were her other options? What do you predict for Zoe’s future?
9. “I took as much as I gave. Truly,” Opal tells Zoe when they say goodbye (p. 259). What do Zoe and Opal take from and give to each other?