Waiting for June
Author: Joyce Sweeney
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish, 2003
Where I got it: The library, hooray.
Sophie is a high school senior, trying to save up enough money for her college education and get through her final year so she can work toward her goal of becoming a poet. She also happens to be pregnant. This does not make her life easy, as she is constantly harassed in school, gets in bitter fights constantly with her mother (who refuses to share the identity of Sophie's own father), and tries to avoid everyone's questions and suspicions of who has fathered her child. Yet Sophie deeply loves her unborn daughter, whom she names June, and is nothing but confident and calm when thinking of her future with her. But to make matters even weirder, Sophie has been having dreams about a pod of whales, dreams so vivid that she is sure they are more than just dreams, that they (and her daughter) are trying to tell her something. The closer the due date approaches, the more secrets are revealed to both Sophie and to the reader.
This slim volume packs a lot of issues into a poetic and lovely story. The only way I can describe the prose is floaty and calm. Nothing ever seems rushed—Sweeney takes her time telling the story, even through the tenser moments and action scenes. As we get deeper into the story, the mysteries get more and more intriguing. Sophie's dreams kick up a notch, to an almost supernatural level, and despite her sleuthing she cannot guess the meaning of them until the end, leaving us to make our guesses and hang in there, waiting to find out if we were right.
That said, I found the issue of June's father pretty predictable—yet that didn't really detract from the story for me. I was more interested in why Sophie was having the dreams, and finding out about her own past. Her mother is very bitter and angry about the pregnancy, even though she herself has a somewhat sullied past. She is a single mother, and gives no indication of how she got there. Sophie is haunted by the fact that she doesn't know her own heritage or where she came from, and uses her pregnancy and the need to know her family's medical history to figure this out.
In the end, this book is about women's solidarity and independence. It is full of strong women who do what needs to be done and take care of each other. All of them band together when it comes down to it, though some take longer than others, and everything is done with as much dignity as possible. It's a quick read, but gave me that happy feeling you get after reading a good story.