Allie and Bea: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Setting: California
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union
Release Date: May 23, 2017

Allie and Bea: A Novel is as different as you'll get from Catherine Ryan Hyde's bestseller Pay It Forward. Yet, I found this novel to be just as powerful as that introduction to Hyde's writing. 

Bea is a widower who gets sucked into one of those obnoxious IRS phone scams. She'd barely been getting by after her husband died, but now with scammers taking every penny she owns, she has nothing left. Checks that were written to cover bills are bouncing, she can't afford groceries let alone the rent, and she has nothing left. Fleeing with her cat, Bea gets into her husband's old work van and starts driving up the coast. Her only goal is to live in a world where $700ish in Social Security payments is enough to get by. Bea's angry with the world and situation and wants to take back what she feels she is owed.

Allie's world is torn out from under her. Her parents are arrested, she's whisked away from her affluent coastal home, and put in a group home where her roommate is either busy stealing her stuff or threatening her. At 15, Allie is not used to having nothing. Desperate to stay alive, she trusts another girl and winds up in a human trafficking ring. She manages to escape, but she has nothing but the clothes on her back.

Bea comes across Allie as Allie is escaping her captor. Bea is convinced the girl is trying to carjack her but soon realizes Allie is not a threat. She agrees to drive Allie to the next town but soon ends up with a companion on a trip that will change Bea's life in ways she never dreamed possible.

I really liked Bea. She's a bit of a curmudgeon, but I get it. She'd been married for decades, isolated from many people, and was scammed in the worst possible way. I got her desire to be left alone, just her and her cat seeking a place of refuge where no electricity bills, water bills, rent, etc. were hanging over her head. I also got her sense of desperation to steal and lie her way into money.

Allie is a little naive, but she's also 15 and has lived a very pampered life. I got that and really loved watching her innocence and stubborn side start to change Bea. I loved seeing the teen be the one to teach the older adult that her methods for getting what she needed were just plain wrong. For that reason, I found myself thinking of Trevor (Pay It Forward) from time to time. 

My problem with Allie and Bea is that it ended. Honestly, I wanted more. I wasn't ready to say goodbye to this pairing. They made me laugh, cry, and simply enjoy all that life has given me, even when I've taken my own blows in the past few months. For that, I thank the author.


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