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by Heather Henson
Joanna Cotler Books, 2002
Review by Su Terry on Dec 2nd 2002

Making the Run

Making the Run by Heather Henson is a well-written story about teenagers facing the end of childhood.  It is a fast paced story of two high school soon-to-be graduates, their hopes, their dreams and their aspirations, and how life intervenes.

Making the Run is set in Rainey, a small rural Kentucky community. It is the month before graduation and seventeen-year old Lulu McClellan, aka “Crazy Lu”, is eager to graduate from high school, turn eighteen, and get out of Rainey, not necessarily in that order! Ginny Cavanaugh, Lu’s best friend, is eager to graduate high school also, but she wants to go to college, meet “Mr. Right”, and settle down into marital bliss. There could not be two more unlikely friends. In the meantime Lu and Ginny kill time and escape by “making the run” to Huntsville where liquor and music are readily available. One night after ‘making the run’, both Lu and Ginny encounter their futures. Lu becomes reacquainted with Jay Shepard. He is 10 years older than Lu and a former member of her brother, Danny’s band, Orpheus. He has also returned to town after “escaping” Rainey for the West. Ginny, on the other hand, meets Reid, a medical student at the nearby college. As the month slowly winds down towards graduation, the girls’ romances rev up into high gear. Like the cars that speed towards ‘dead man’s curve’ recklessly challenging death and destiny, the girls’ own lives rush maddeningly through a maelstrom of alcohol, drugs, and sex. Will they gain control in time? Or spins out of control and topple over the edge?

The Novel is written from Lu’s point of view. Slowly, through a series of flashbacks and dialogues with Jay, the reader begins to understand Lu’s tragic life and why she has earned the nickname “crazy Lu “. The reader discovers that her mother’s sudden death occurred before her eyes at the age of six. The reader learns about her movement into photography as a means to cope with the trauma of her mother’s death and the cold distance of her father and brother as they find their own way to cope with the loss and their grief. The reader hear her silent scream for love and attention as Lu acts out, skips school, rebels, gets drunk, and takes drugs. Lu’s behavior does not go unnoticed by the small-minded traditional community in which she resides. In contrast, Ginny as the “All-American girl next-door” is particularly well written. She is portrayed with all the complexity of her conflict emotions. She is as changeable as her wardrobe, trying one lifestyle after another, all the while trying to straddle the line between appearing as the “good girl” to authority figures and “Miss popularity” with her peers. She is the epitome of the small-town sweetheart with small-town dreams (a husband, a home, and a family – in that order). To her detriment, she is beautiful, sexy, and has a reputation for “getting the goods” (looking 18 and being able to buy alcohol). Jay Shepard is another interesting character. He is older, a loner, world weary, and wiser for it. He has traveled out West, and has decided to return to Rainey to live. Lu is intrigued by his life beyond Rainey yet she is completely baffled by his desire to return and settle down in his hometown. Another interesting character is Lu’s grandmother, Gran Mac. While she has a very small role, as Lu’s adult confidant, she exudes a strong presence in this novel. Since the novel is written from Lu’s limited perspective, the characters and their actions are viewed only through Lu’s biased eyes. This can be very frustrating for the reader because other characters’ behavior or motives are not always clear or readily understand. This is, however, what makes this novel very true to real life.

In my opinion this novel is wonderful. It is richly evocative of that exciting time of life, high school graduation, when like a carousel everything is thrilling and the brass ring is almost within reach. I am not sure if this novel reflects the experience of modern teenagers, but for me, it was a wonder walk down memory lane. My peers were like these young people. I knew their joys and pain, their hopes and frustrations, and, of course, the restless boredom. Once more I was able to feel it all just as if I, too, was reliving it. Perhaps, if the young people do not find this novel a good read, they should pass it on to their parents.

Heather Henson is an editor for books for young readers. Her short stories have appeared in the literary journal, Promethean. She studied Creative Writing at City College/City University of New York. Born and raised in Kentucky, Henson currently resides in Brooklyn with her husband and son. Making the Run is her first novel.

Making the Run by Heather Henson is a wonderful book. Released only last month, it is too early to record its accolades, but if my hunches are correct, this will be an award winner by year’s end. This is a book to buy and to share. Henson is definitely an author to watch. A definite winner! (Labeled “Age 12 and up” this novel contains scenes of sexual expression, and graphic descriptions of drug use and alcohol abuse.)


© 2002 Su Terry

Su Terry: Education: B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral Counseling from Fairfield University, a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University. She is a Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in Library Science at Dowling College, Long Island, NY. Interests in Mental Health: She is interested in the interplay between psychology, biology, and mysticism. Her current area of research is in the impact of hormonal fluctuation in female Christian mystics.