The Ada Decades by Paula Martinac is a short story collection that follows the life of Ada Shook. As a girl from a blue collar family in Charlotte, North Carolina, she’s expected to marry and have a family. Instead, a college scholarship leads her to become a school librarian, informing the course of the rest of her life.
Ada is hired the same year that Central Charlotte Junior High is forced to start integrating black students, and she finds herself caught between doing what’s right and what the administration expects. It’s in these first few months that Ada becomes fast friends with Cam Lively, who becomes the great love of Ada’s life.
As this is Ada’s book, we really do get to know her best. We meet her as a child and leave her when she’s in her 80s. Ada is a kind, smart, principled woman. It’s easy to see why Cam was drawn to her from their first meeting, and it feels like a privilege to watch her change and grow as the times change around her.
Cam is also very easy to like. Despite coming from a life of privilege and having a lot to lose, she found a way to live authentically, making gay and lesbian friends who she could be her whole self with. I won’t spoil anything because you really need to experience it yourself, but her last words on the page tugged at me and have stayed with me since I read them.
The Writing Style
The Ada Decades is beautifully written. Each story takes us through a different stage in Ada’s life, allowing us to follow her from girlhood to her golden years. At the same time, we see the struggles with racism in Charlotte alongside the difficulties of living as a lesbian in a time when it wasn’t legal. The structure of the book lends itself well to the overall story, with the individual pieces forming a complete narrative, much like The Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro.
Oh goodness, everything? It’s so well written, I loved the characters, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
The Ada Decades is a short, but masterful book. If you’re looking for an excellent lesbian book that is not a romance, I highly recommend it.
Excerpt from The Ada Decades by Paula Martinac
“Cam? Is everything okay?”
Cam’s voice was a husky whisper. “Auggie gave me your note.”
The message she’d written had been simple but heartfelt: Cam, I’m new at this. I need to know this is serious for you. I feel a lot for you, but I’m not sure what that means. Love, Ada.
She had faltered with the closing, thinking Yours too suggestive, Best too cold. Fondly sounded like somebody’s great-aunt Maybelle. So she scrawled Love, and then her hand trembled as she signed her name, making each a more rounded and the d more squiggly.
Now Cam was still talking, but she sounded far away, like she was calling from the coast. “I would never rush you. I know it is a lot to think about. But darlin’, I have never felt this way about anyone. Ever.”
Ada paused. The tube of coral lipstick flashed into her mind, the way it had claimed its space in the medicine cabinet. She imagined Cam leaning into someone’s lips. “Ever?” she asked with caution, aware her mother might be listening.
Ice rattled on the other end of the line. “I have been in love,” Cam said slowly. “I’m not saying you’re the first. I’m just saying . . . all I mean is, this is different.”
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Bits and Bobs
ISBN number: 9781612940854
Publisher: Bywater Books
Paula Martinac Online
Note: I received a free review copy of The Ada Decades by Paula Martinac. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion, I refuse to review books.
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