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The Double Life of Zoe Flynn    by Janet Lee Carey order for
Double Life of Zoe Flynn
by Janet Lee Carey
Order:  USA  Can
Atheneum, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

The Flynn family of Tillerman, California face hard-times. Dad has been laid off from his teaching job at the local college, and his Horizon Books store had to be closed down. Their landlord has sold the house the Flynns have been renting. Much to the dismay of eleven-year old Zoe Flynn, the family has to move to find work elsewhere, living in their van. Leaving the life Zoe has known is not easy, especially leaving her friend Kellen.

The Flynn family - Dad, Mom, Zoe, and brother Juke - sell most of their possessions. They travel five hundred miles to Scout River, Oregon where Dad takes on two jobs - teaching literature part-time, and selling products at a camping supply store. Mom does cleaning jobs at various homes. Zoe's parents work hard to save money to rent an apartment, continuing to live in their van in the meantime. Zoe and Jake enroll in Einstein Elementary School. Zoe's first friend is Aliya, and their first-day writing assignment is 'How I Spent My Summer'. Zoe titles her composition 'My Camping Trip', as she continues to lead her 'double life', keeping secret the fact that her home is a van.

Zoe earns money each week dusting Mrs. Garmo's mobile-home living room and walking her poodles. Her friend Aliya begins to wonder why Zoe never invites her to her home. Zoe is not able to tell even her best friend that her family lives in a van, and Aliya takes it personally, assuming that Zoe's family must be prejudiced against her Muslim family. The van breaks down, and needs major repairs which dip into their savings. And Officer Bergstrom seems to be following Zoe and Juke around town. Very discouraged with her family plight, Zoe is homesick for their old home.

Over a four-day weekend, Zoe tells her parents she will be at Aliya's house, but secretly buys a bus ticket to Tillerman. She looks through the window at her old bedroom and is especially saddened to find that her hide-out closet has been torn down. Since the family left Tillerman, Zoe has carried the magic glass doorknob Grandma had given her. While in Tillerman, Zoe performs a heroic act, and when she returns to Oregon, she takes on the challenge to make Scout River her hometown. 'The dark-haired girl with big brown eyes used to live in an old two-story house. The house was white on the outside and creamy white on the inside', Zoe tells herself in the mirror.

The Double Life of Zoe Flynn is a touching story of family life, facing and coping with change, while learning lessons in courage, and compromise. I enjoyed it though I was disappointed that Grandma (in a Tillerman nursing home) gets only brief recognition. Janet Lee Carey, who grew up in a house much like Zoe's, is a teacher who also wrote Wenny Has Wings and Molly's Fire. Carey says, 'May you search far and wide for your place as Zoe did. And may you find the door.'

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