When Lorraine, a recent college graduate, starts work at a residential treatment center for troubled teens, she quickly finds herself absorbed into a world very distant from the idyllic lobsters-and-lighthouses fairy tale she had always associated with Maine. Instead, she discovers a landscape of abused and angry teenagers, illicit romance, and danger. Still, she grows to love the place and its people until events shatter her confidence in the world and her own morality. Years later, disheartened and battered by life, Lorraine is unexpectedly drawn back to that world to confront the person she was, the choices she made, and the bitter ghosts that still haunt her. In Sunrise and the Real World, Martha Tod Dudman has penned a taut and spellbinding coming-of-age novel that will stay with you long into the night.
Below in an excerpt entitled "Before."
THE SUN’S NOT UP, BUT I’VE BEEN AWAKE SINCE THREE A.M., ALONE in my tiny room.
Might as well get up.
The room is chilly; I pull on my clothes in a hurry, then go out into the dimly lit hallway, a long corridor of closed doors where other residents—painters and poets and novelists—are dreaming their dreams. I hear them sigh in their sleep as I pass, and then I am out the door and into the cold air of the early morning.
The moon’s nearly full, lighting the broad dirt path. My studio’s far at the back, beyond all the others, and I have to cross the damp grass, where it’s darker, to get to my studio door.
Every time that I come out early like this, and alone, I’m afraid that somebody’s waiting in there, sitting where I won’t see him until I put on the light.
There’s no one this morning, of course, just a room with a glaring, unflattering light, a desk, a daybed, a chair: the bare bones of creation provided to every resident at Caledonia, the artists’ colony where I am staying.
I sit down at the desk and open my laptop. Dive in, as I have every day since I came here to Caledonia. I’m trying to get the story right, at least on the page. Trying to explain what happened thirty years ago, when I worked at Sunrise Academy.
Begin with the body, my friend Alan always tells me; somehow, that doesn’t seem right. I should start where it all began and zigzag my way through the wilderness of events, like I’m following a path through the trees.
Begin at Sunrise Academy, after the bodies were discovered, after the shouting was over, by the lake on a hot summer day.
“You realize, don’t you, that nothing’s ever going to be the same?” Elliot asked me.
He was standing quite close to me, but I didn’t touch him. I didn’t want to. Not after what happened.
“We’re never going to go back to the way it was,” he said.
He was right. We never did. All the violence and near-violence had erased everything else at Sunrise Academy—all memory of how things used to be—and I was an entirely different person from the naive young girl who’d come down that dirt driveway a year ago.
Martha Tod Dudman lives in Maine and is the author of Dawn, Expecting to Fly, Black Olives, and Augusta, Gone, which was adapted as an award-winning film.