From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Eberstadt (Little Money Street
) creates a powerful modern legend in which a drug dealer can be a fairy godmother and the handsome prince may turn out to be your father. Fifteen-year-old Celia Bonnet, aka Rat, lives with her mother, Vanessa, in the Pyrenees, where they survive on what they can scavenge and sell at local markets. Rat dreams of some day meeting her long-gone biological father, who got Vanessa pregnant during a one-night stand. Rat and Vanessa's tiny family grows first with Morgan, the orphaned son of Vanessa's best friend, and then with Vanessa's boyfriend, Thierry. But after Thierry sexually assaults Morgan, Rat and Morgan run away, dreaming of crossing the Channel to find Rat's biological father, Gillem. Eberstadt invokes the heroines of Charlotte Brontë and Cynthia Voigt to create Rat, who moves forward out of grim determination to protect Morgan, and though Vanessa could be less opaque, Eberstadt creates a sympathetic figure in Gillem, whose artistic crisis takes a backseat to the demands of new fatherhood. Amid the thorns and crumb trails is a portrait of a childhood lived freely, the dangers weighed against its potential for adventure. (Apr.)
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Growing up with her loving single-parent mom in a rough neighborhood in the South of France, Celia names herself Rat, and when Mom adopts Algerian orphan Morgan, 15-year-old Rat acts as his fierce older sister, protecting him first against racism in the community (“It stinks being Arab in France”) and then against sexual abuse at home, when Mom refuses to believe her sleazy boyfriend is abusing Morgan. Always haunted by the mystery of the father she has never met, Rat runs away with Morgan to London to find her dad––and herself. Eberstadt’s contemporary take on the elemental identity quest is rich, wry, and heartbreaking, complete with e-mails, security cameras, cell phones, and “globish” talk. Whether it is the immediate drama of Rat’s loss of innocence (“her blithe assumption that other people were basically well-intentioned”) or her sometimes painful independence from the mother she loves (“from worship to apartness to wary but still infintely tender”), the plainspoken, direct prose and the beautiful storytelling combine to produce a novel that is mythic, gritty, and unforgettable. --Hazel Rochman