Throwback Thursday: Retro Reads – The Girls of Canby Hall #6: Best Friends Forever

Throwback Thursday: Retro Reads

We’ve all heard of Throwback Thursday, the day you post photos from the past to Facebook or Instagram. Retro Reads is my bookish version of Throwback Thursday. I’ll be rereading and posting a recap/review of books I loved when I was younger, mostly series books. Fair warning: These are more recaps than reviews. They will be thorough and there will be spoilers.

For the first few weeks, I’m going to be transferring my previously posted Girls of Canby Hall recaps over here.

Best Friends ForeverThe Girls of Canby Hall #6: Best Friends Forever
Author: Patricia Aks writing as Emily Chase
Published: 1984
Goodreads

Dana thinks country means quilts from cozy boutiques, and Faith can’t imagine a town without hot pretzel vendors…

But they find themselves home with Shelley in Iowa for the last weeks of summer, and small-town life is anything but humdrum! One of Shelley’s brothers, Jeff, falls hard for Dana, and she wonders if she’s always going to attract country types. Everyone is getting ready for the County Fair when Faith is suddenly, shockingly ill. The best doctors in Pine Bluff can’t figure out what’s wrong. Dana and Shelley stand helplessly by, worried that for Faith, small-town care simply isn’t going to be enough.

Dana’s in her family’s apartment in New York packing for her trip to Shelley’s Iowa hometown. These girls have just spent September through July at Canby, with breaks only at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the past two weeks in August. You would think Dana’s and Faith’s mothers might want them to stick around a little longer before going back to Canby, or that they might want to spend time with their old friends, but no. They’re going to spend two weeks in Iowa with Shelley, who they will again be living with for another ten or eleven months.

At eleven, she would call Faith in Washington, D.C. That’s when the long distance telephone rates went down.

LOLOL outdated technology. I love how this is explained, as if the author knew that in the future people wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore. I don’t have a cell phone but I don’t even have to pay for long distance on my landline.

The next day, Faith flies to New York to meet Dana, then they travel to Iowa together. They’re both nervous about being in the midwest for the first time and Faith is especially concerned because of her skin color. I’m pretty sure she thinks she’s going to be the only black person in the entire state of Iowa.

Shelley and her brothers meet Dana and Faith at the airport. Jeff is immediately taken with Dana. Sorry, Jeff, if no one told you. She has a boyfriend. You’re just a few weeks too late. If only you had been there to console her after Bret broke her heart.

“How big is Des Moines?” Dana asked, changing the subject completely.

“About 200,000. That’s humungus compared to the population of Pine Bluff, which has only 5.000.”

“Really!” Dana said in dismay.

Really, Dana. This is getting ridiculous. How big is Greenleaf, the place where you just lived since September? Maybe it’s not, but I picture it as a small town, too. And even if it’s big enough for you, a superior New Yorker, you can’t spend TWO WEEKS in a small town without being dismayed? Why did you come? You could have pretended your mom wouldn’t let you go. I bet she would have even gone along with it.

The group drives around Des Moines for a little while, where Faith is relieved to see some black people. By this time she and Dana have realized that they’re being rude and try to find compliments about the city, things such as, “The streets are so clean.”

As they sped along the interstate, Dana and Faith expressed their appreciation of the scenery. The farmland consisted of rich brown soil that contrasted dramatically with the golden corn crops. Beef cattle grazed in the fields; immaculate white farmhouses and deep-red barns graced the rolling terrain.

Pretty! The girls catch up on the drive to Pine Bluff, discussing fashion and Faith’s two-week photography job while Shelley’s brothers talk about hog feed, basketball (wrong season, boys), and tractors. Once they reach the town, they drive slowly so Shelley can point out the sights: the fire department, a handful of shops, the post office.

Look, I live in a town about half the size of Pine Bluff and I grew up in one much, much smaller. I know we don’t have any sights to be seen. Why is Shelley so dense? It’s not like she’s never traveled anywhere before. Surely she visited Boston at least once in the past year, and she’s been to Faith’s in DC and I think there was even mention of a weekend in NYC with Dana too.

When they reach Shelley’s house, Mrs. Hyde immediately feeds them: buttered biscuits, jam, honey, and iced tea. Yum. Shelley shows them around the house — the guestroom is actually the sewing room — and especially her room, which is pink and white and looks exactly like they expected. She shows off the ribbon she won for an apron she made in junior high and explains that 4-H is an important part of a Pine Bluff High student’s life.

Dana and Faith are impressed by one thing in Pine Bluff: Shelley knows how to drive (and learned on a ’67 Chevy, no less).

After they all clean up the kitchen and Shelley’s brothers leave, Shelley, her parents, Dana and Faith have a sing-along around the piano in the living room. They are soon joined by Shelley’s Iowa boyfriend Paul and his cousin Jack, who have come to take the girls bowling.

In the car, Paul asks what Dana thinks of Pine Bluff. She’s not sure yet. They start talking about boarding schools and Paul is clearly not okay with Shelley returning to Canby in the fall. Maybe he feels that way because she’s only been home two weeks and now she has her roommates visiting for the next two weeks. They start to get into an argument until Jack steers the conversation into a safer direction.

Shelley’s brother Jeff joins the group at the bowling alley. They’re loud like teenagers are and draw disapproving looks from the older people around them. Jack says, “Holy cow!” a lot and Faith realizes he’s not so bad, even if he did look surprised when he first saw her.

Back at Shelley’s parents’ house, Faith says Jeff can’t take his eyes off Dana. Dana laments attracting a second country boy but admits that Randy came along at just the right time when her heart was broken.

There’s a ton of recap in this book. So far they’ve recapped Paul showing up at Canby and Dana’s first meeting with Randy and I’m sure there was more before I started noticing it.

Dana says she could never really fall for Randy because she’s too much of a city girl. Same goes for Jeff, whose favorite subject is his heifer Gertrude. Faith thinks the same about Jack. They know they’re being snobs but that doesn’t stop them from continuing to be that way. They do agree to try to be more open-minded.

The next morning, Shelley wakes them up with the promise of pancakes (which she calls both griddle cakes and hotcakes on the same page). After breakfast she drives them to another farm to meet Gertrude, teaching them all about Iowa and Pine Bluff on the way. Shelley obviously loves her home state a lot and is proud to be an Iowan. Shelley warns them that the farmer they’re going to visit acts like he doesn’t like people but underneath he’s a real softie. Faith thinks that Shelley is warning her that he won’t expect her to be black.

When they meet him, he’s actually very nice and Faith even gets permission to take take pictures of some of his cows. Jeff is proud to show off Gertrude. Dana is impressed with his dedication and work ethic. Faith and Shelley wander off to find some other cows for Faith to photograph, leaving Dana and Jeff alone with Gertrude. Dana tries to look interested while he works with the heifer.

Shelley and Faith return with permission to take some of Farmer Jensen’s horses out for a ride. Dana and Faith have never ridden before, and Shelley claims to be a terrible rider, so Jeff has to go with them. Shelley knows what she’s doing, though, as she saddles up some of the horses.

Riding comes easy to Faith, but not to Dana. She’s feeling a little more accustomed to it by the time they stop to let the horses drink from Round Pond. When they’re getting ready to get back on the horses, Faith has a dizzy spell. She brushes it off as the heat. On the way back, Dana loses control of her horse. Oh, Dana. Dana loses the reins and almost falls off as her horse rushes toward the road. Jeff chases them down and manages to stop Dana’s horse just as they reach the road. Dana is extremely grateful.

“I think you saved my life, Jeff,” she said. Even those dramatic words sounded trite, compared to how she was feeling.

You play your cards right, Jeff, and you might get lucky with a real New York City girl.

The four of them agree not to tell anyone what happened. They don’t want the farmer who owns the horses or Shelley’s parents to think they’re irresponsible.

The girls go to Shelley’s father’s pharmacy to eat at the lunch counter. While Shelley helps her friend Tad (who works there) make their sandwiches and ice cream sodas, Dana buys some band-aids for her hands and Faith decides to get some aspirin for the “weird feeling in her head.” Next they head to the general store, which is packed with dry goods. I guess Wal-mart hasn’t made it to Pine Bluff yet. Maybe by 1990.

(Wikipedia says that Walmart didn’t expand to Iowa until 1983, and now that I think about it, when I was a kid, Kmart was the place to go. But I guess Pine Bluff doesn’t have a Kmart either.)

Dana and Faith poke around while Shelley goes looking for some yarn. They spend some time making fun of the clothing department, offending Shelley when she returns.

“You don’t have to be in a big city to buy good clothes. A lot of people manage to dress well here,” Shelley retorted. There was an edge to her voice.

She also points out that she makes most of her clothes, which kind of speaks to their point. If you can’t buy what you want, you make it. But Faith knows she’s being a snob again and feels bad.

Lily, the woman who runs the store, isn’t all that friendly. In fact, she’s pretty grumpy when she checks the girls out. Shelley has her yarn and Faith buys a stuffed alligator as a present for her brother. Dana asks how the store stays in business with the woman’s attitude. Shelley says that when you’re the only store in town, it’s easy.

Just you wait, Lily. Wal-mart’s coming and then you’re going to find some real competition.

Their next stop is the Trash and Treasure rummage sale at the fire department. Faith is still feeling weak and has a headache, but she decides to ignore the symptoms.

Dana finds a set of dessert plates because she’s 16 going on 60. She’s surprised to see the man behind the table reading poetry by Emily Dickinson, her favorite poet. (So much for Grace Phaeton.)

Faith is mopey as she and Dana are getting ready for a hayride that night. When Dana asks what’s wrong, Faith says she’s afraid she’ll be the only black at the party. (I’m petty sure that’s an issue at Canby, too, but it’s never seemed to be an issue before this book.) Dana points out that no one has treated her any differently. She and Faith are both out of place because they’re from the East Coast.

Faith says that she’s just tired, but internally she acknowledges that she’s exhausted and that even moving requires effort.

Dana and Faith meet a lot of Shelley’s junior high friends at the hayride. It’s taken me this long — and I mean in life, not just in the 97 pages of this book so far — to realize that Shelley probably went to one of those schools where junior high is 7th-9th. In fact, Dana and Faith might have, too. That’s probably why they all started at Canby as 10th graders. Although, each one of them was worried about being the only new girl, so maybe not. I do think it’s true for Shelley though, because she has mentioned junior high a few times in this book and if 9th grade was high school, why go back to junior high for all of your recollections?

Faith starts feeling left out on the hayride because Paul has his arm around Shelley and she misses Johnny. Dana and Jeff start making out (I TOLD YOU, JEFF! Way to go!) but she pulls away and says they hardly know each other. He starts to play the, “If you really like me” card, but a sudden storm begins before he can complete his sentence. Someone should have checked the weather forecast.

“Keep going,” someone insisted. “It’s only a little rainstorm.”

“It’s more than that,” Clarence said, trying to keep his voice steady. “It’s a twister.”

WHAT?! I know they didn’t have Doppler radar at every TV station in the mid-80s, but surely they had SOME form of radar to alert them to the fact that it’s tornado weather. Okay, I looked this up. There were warnings that didn’t generally go out until a tornado was on the ground, BUT STILL YOU CAN TELL WHEN A TORNADO IS POSSIBLE, especially if you’re outside.

So of course everyone is panicking. I am panicking right now. Oh and they decide to outrun it. IN A WAGON PULLED BY HORSES. No, no, no. They make a run for an abandoned barn, which could FALL DOWN ON THEM instead of getting as low to the ground as possible.

Dana and Faith have no idea what kind of damage tornadoes can do, so Shelley’s brother Larry kindly tells them about the Waco, Texas, tornado of 1953.

In ten minutes the tornado gouged a path a half mile wide and three miles long. It struck more than five hundred homes, killed eleven people, and seriously injured more than sixty.

The tornado has apparently moved away from them, as it started “several hundred yards” off the road and is now reported to be half a mile away. They finally reach the barn and watch as the tornado tears the roof off a farmhouse, then change direction and head straight for the barn they are in. WHAT DID I TELL YOU?

Just before it reaches the barn, the tornado lifts into the air and disappears. It’s a miracle. Everyone is joyful and ready to head back to town. Faith has to have help getting back into the wagon and passes it off as fear, but really her knees feel like jelly and her head is still pounding.

Shelley’s parents are relieved to see the girls and their sons return home safely. Shelley goes upstairs to take a shower because Paul is coming over later. Faith goes to lie down, and Dana sits with Shelley’s mom, who is playing the piano again. They talk about choices. Mrs. Hyde could have had a career in music, but instead of going to college after high school, she wanted to stay in Pine Bluff with Mr. Hyde, who was just starting in the pharmacy business. She’s never regretted that decision, but she wanted Shelley to go to Canby Hall to learn that there’s more to life than Pine Bluff.

The next morning, Shelley wakes the girls early. It’s time to head over to the Browns’. They’re the family who lost their roof in the tornado. Everyone who is able will help repair the roof, and everyone else will bring food for the workers and the Browns. Dana reluctantly gets out of bed, but Faith is harder to rouse. She falls asleep in the car on the way there.

The girls take the Browns’ daughter to the local swimming hole to keep her out of the way. Faith sits under a tree to rest, and Dana asks if she feels sick and suggests a doctor. Faith (SNOB) says they probably have great veterinarians but she doesn’t have hoof and mouth disease. Dana (SNOB) agrees with her.

The next day is the start of the county fair, where Jeff will be showing his heifer. Everyone except Faith is up early. Faith finally gets up but isn’t moving very fast. As Dana and Shelley are trying to decide what to wear to the square dance that night, Faith admits that she’s not feeling well and has decided to stay home. Mrs. Hyde is concerned, but Faith doesn’t have a fever and says she doesn’t mind being left alone. She just wants to spend the day resting so that she’ll be able to go to the square dance.

At the fair, Mr. and Mrs. Hyde deliver her pies to the bakery booth while Dana and Shelley go looking for Jeff. Shelley explains that Faith is sick. Jeff isn’t happy; Faith will never get the opportunity to see him show Gertrude again. I’m sure she will regret it for the rest of her life. Um, Jeff, you’ve been working with Gertrude for probably months. Faith just met her — and you — a few days ago. It’s not the highlight of her life. It’s probably not even the highlight of her summer.

Dana and Shelley try to calm him down, but Jeff becomes inexplicably furious over this slight. How dare a girl he barely knows skip his event at the fair! They still have two hours until the heifer class starts, and Jeff is nervous. Mr. Jensen suggests that he go home for a shower and to change clothes, but warns Jeff to be back on time. If he isn’t, no one else can show Gertrude.

As Jeff drives home, his anxieties over the showing return. He knows he’s being unreasonable, but he’s still angry with Faith.

A little cold shouldn’t keep her away, he though, his irritation increasing. I think I’ll tell her what a snob she is, afraid of a little fresh air because she sneezed twice. Or maybe people from Washington, D.C. don’t realize how important the fair is in our lives…

By the time Jeff pulled into the driveway of the house, he was seething with rage.

Seething with rage? Over THIS? I think Jeff is a domestic abuse timebomb waiting to happen. Get a grip, man! Faith’s been a snob, but she’s covered it well, sharing it only with Dana. She has gamely gone along with everything since she’s been in Iowa up to this point. And it’s not like this is Dana, the girl he likes. Faith is basically his kid sister’s tagalong friend.

So he walks into the house, seething with rage, and starts shouting for Faith. When she doesn’t answer, he thinks she’s not even there, that she’s probably out with her camera. Yeah, Jeff, because the fair wouldn’t be a good place for her to get some pictures.

After his shower, Jeff hears a noise coming from the sewing room/guest room.

Jeff opened the door slowly and was shocked to see Faith, full clothed, sprawled on the bed. She was breathing heavily, beads of perspiration covered her lip, and her eyes were half closed.

You want to rethink that seething rage yet, buddy?

Faith’s able to speak but she’s burning up with fever and in a lot of pain. She tries to make him go back to the fair so he won’t miss his moment. He gets her up and helps her walk downstairs, where he hastily scribbles a note for his family before taking Faith to the hospital ER. He’s upset about missing the showing at the fair, but he’s more worried about Faith.

Jeff has to wait in the reception area while Faith is taken to a room. They won’t give him much information other than to say that she’s seriously ill. Jeff has a long wait, both for his family and for Faith’s doctors. Eventually he sees Faith being wheeled to a room, but she’s not allowed visitors until some test results are back.

The Hydes and Dana finally arrive. Still no one is allowed in with Faith. Mr. Hyde tells Jeff that they’re proud of him for making the decision to take care of Faith instead of return to the fair.

Shelley and Dana are feeling guilty for ignoring Faith’s symptoms. Mr. and Mrs. Hyde return from seeing the doctor. The doctor won’t say what he thinks, but Mr. Hyde, base on his pharmacy experience, thinks Faith could have mono or meningitis. The family goes home to rest, since they can’t see Faith yet anyway.

Shelley’s mom has to call Faith’s mom. I’m surprised the hospital didn’t already do that, looking for insurance information and parental consent. Faith’s mom will be flying in the next day.

Paul and Shelley’s best friend Cary come over to keep her and Dana company. They all decide to go to the hospital to sit and wait. There’s still no change in Faith’s condition. Since Shelley’s worried about Faith dying, maybe someone should call Johnny in Greenleaf and at least let him know.

The next day, there’s still no change. The doctors do a spinal tap, which comes back clear. Faith doesn’t have bacterial meningitis but she does have an infection of some sort. They only thing they can do for her right now is to give her aspirin and fluids, which she could be getting at home for a lot less money! Shelley and Dana finally get to go into Faith’s room to see her. She’s able to say a few words but quickly goes back to sleep.

Faith’s mom arrives later that night. There’s still no change. Faith gets slightly stronger over the next few days, and is able to have visitors (other than her mother, who is staying in the room with her) twice a day for ten minutes. It’s at one of these visits that Faith asks Dana and Shelley if she’s going to die.

Faith’s mom wants to have her moved to a hospital in DC. Her doctors don’t advise it, however, and the Hydes don’t think it’s wise either. Dana understands though, and surprisingly, Jeff does too. When they return to the hospital after dinner at the Hydes’, Faith’s condition has worsened. Now Mrs. Thompson is desperate to get her home, but the airlines won’t take her because her illness is undiagnosed. Mr. Hyde contacts a rancher he knows who has a private plane, and arranges for the flight. Dana and Shelley decide to go along.

Jeff gives Dana a a stuffed cow as a going away present. They share a goodbye kiss at the airport, and as they leave, Dana is crying. She tells Shelley that she’s homesick for Pine Bluff.

Faith’s mom escorts her to the hospital while Faith’s sister takes Shelley and Dana back to their home. While they’re getting settled in, she asks if anyone has talked to Johnny. Shelley thinks he deserves to know, so Dana makes the call. Johnny wants to come to DC immediately but Dana says it’s best if he doesn’t, that Faith is unconscious and won’t know he’s there. He promises to call tomorrow for an update.

They Hydes and Johnny call a lot over the next few days, and for three days there’s no change. The DC hospital is unable to come up with a diagnosis but confirms that the Iowa hospital gave Faith the proper care. That night, Dana and Shelley are making dinner for the Thompsons when the phone rings. It’s Faith’s doctor with good news: Faith is awake and her fever is gone!

Dana and Shelley are able to see Faith again the next day. Faith remembers the hospital in Iowa and says that it was just as good as the one in DC. She and Dana are ashamed that they were such snobs and have come to realize that small town life can be pretty great, even if it’s not what they’re used to.

The Cover
Dorky hat, Shelley. You too, Faith. We can tell here that Dana is the one with the mother who works as a fashion buyer.

I think Shelley’s lost some more weight. She’s thinner than Dana.

Jenna

Comments

  1. Gah for some reason the cover made me think of The Baby Sitter’s Club. Heh
    Lily B recently posted…Atria Books Tour: Take a Chance (Chance #1) by Abbi Glines ReviewMy Profile

  2. LOL. These books came out just a couple of years before the BSC started.
    Jenna recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday: Since You’ve Been GoneMy Profile