When I was growing up, there were a lot of books that I worshipped, that were basically life changing, books that I’d return to again and again, and, above all, books that made me feel not quite so alone in the world. Louise Moeri’s THE GIRL WHO LIVED ON THE FERRIS WHEEL was definitely one of these reads—a book that scared the daylights out of me, but also made me feel that someone out there understood that teenagers weren’t all living in perfect, happy families. I came from a home that, shall we just say was not always the funnest place to grow up, and most of the time, around my friends exceedingly loving, supportive parents, I felt like a bit of an alien, usually distractedly thinking things like, “wow, so THAT”S what it’s supposed to look like . . .” Now, of course we all know that there’s no such thing as normal, not per se, but things were so chaotic in my house that I would’ve settled just for calm. Boring, even.
THE GIRL WHO LIVES ON THE FERRIS WHEEL was published in the early 1980’s, though I read it much later, and is set in the 1940’s. The narrative centers on Til, a young girl whose parents have divorced, and who is stuck living with a mentally unstable, not to mention exceedingly physically abusive mother, Gertrude, who barely feeds her own daughter, refuses to heat the house sufficiently in the dead of winter, and is obsessed with cleanliness and dirt to the point that she often forces Til out of bed in the early morning hours so Gertrude can wash the sheets.
The only bit of bright light in Til’s life are the visits she shares with her father once a week when he takes her to the amusement park–specifically for a ride on the ferris wheel, an activity that Til finds both terrifying and exhilarating. Til associates the foreboding, hulking presence of the wheel with her mentally unbalanced monster of a mother, the flashing lights, the spinning and turning that leaves Til perpetually confused and breathless. And as the story progresses and Till’s mother becomes more and more unhinged, Til begins to crumble under the strain . . .
Unfortunately, this amazing book is out of print, and you can only buy it used on Amazon and other used book sites online, but tracking down a copy is well worth it. Moeri is an incredible prose stylist who will make your heart break while she sends shivers down your spine. Plus, you’ll get a cool 70’s cover like the one above! And if I haven’t convinced you enough, take a look at the blurb on the back . . .
Louise Moeri made me feel less alone in the world, like there was someone out there who understood. When I started writing WHITE LINES, that was exactly what I wanted to do for kids who felt like me back then, scared of what might be waiting behind the front door, scared to go home—the one place that should always be safe and warm. And in writing the book, which was emotionally difficult at times, my fiercest hope is that I’ve done just that—created a place where the abused, the lost, and the hopelessly confused feel heard and understood. Because I feel your pain. And I’ve been there.