By Heidi Simmons
Nothing to See Here
by Kevin Wilson – Fiction
Childhood is like a strange dream. For some, it’s not until we are adults — older adults – that we are able to get a perspective of our formative years. Good or bad, there is little we can do to shape our own childhood. We were innocent beings doing our best to cope with the adults who raised us. In Kevin Wilson’s Nothing to See Here (Ecco, 257 pages), a young woman finds a passion for parenting children who burst into flames.
Lillian narrates her story. She grew up with a single mother and never knew anything about her father. Lillian always felt like a burden. Her mother was uninterested and impatient and saw Lillian as a problem in her way. She and her mother struggled financially, and lived on the wrong side of town. Little Lillian found escape in books and school.
Earning a scholarship to an elite private girls’ high school — only available to one or two poor but worthy local girls — Lillian meets Madison, a girl from a wealthy and influential family. The two become best friends finding that their eccentricities jive. They both play on the basketball team. But, when Madison makes a mistake that can get her kicked out, Lillian takes the fall. Her mother takes a cash bribe for Lillian’s fake confession and subsequent dismissal.
As an adult, Lillian, never able to recover from the expulsion, lives at home and works at Save-A-Lot. All her dreams and the promises of a good future gone, she has settled with her simple and uninteresting life, when Madison asks Lillian for her help.
Madison is married to a Tennessee Senator, soon to be U.S. Secretary of State. She is his second wife. Madison needs Lillian to act as a governess to her husband’s twins from a previous marriage. There is a problem with the kids – they catch fire, spontaneously ignite! It is Lillian’s job to protect and entertain the kids while also keeping them out of the public eye and preventing them from combusting.
It is work Lillian cannot refuse. She always loved Madison and it beats living in her mother’s attic, plus it pays well. She takes the job and discovers she relates to the children in surprising ways. Even as the twins burn, Lillian becomes their friend and champion, appreciating and relating to their strange and unusual gift.
This is a fun story. I liked Lillian right away. I felt her suffering alone as an outsider. No family or mother to comfort, accept or encourage her. But, she does not consider herself a victim. She willingly accepts her destiny.
I also liked Madison as the rich girl who also suffers without much love in her life. She too has accepted her fate. It’s just that Madison is destined for greater things –like being First Lady.
The “fire children,” Bessie and Roland, are marvelous. The twins do their best to not ignite, but they are emotional creatures and it takes Lillian’s compassion and understanding to reach and teach these outcast kids to cope. Caring for the twins, Lillian is happy to find she can love unconditionally, and to her surprise — be loved in return.
Author Wilson writes an entertaining tale of our fragile human condition. It reminds just how stressful it is to navigate childhood, especially in a volatile world that is on the verge of bursting into flames.