“At What Price?” by P.A. Estelle

By Ekta R. Garg

October 19, 2012

Rated: Borrow it

A grandmother comes face to face with her daughter’s life challenges when she gets a call from an irate stranger.  The stranger has graciously taken care of the main character’s granddaughter for several days but can no longer do so.  And suddenly the grandmother knows what she must do, although she embraces her role as a mother a second time over with some trepidation in P. A. Estelle’s short story “At What Price?”  Estelle, a talented young adult author, offers her first story aimed at adult readers and puts together a worthy attempt.

As the story opens, Katherine Gardner waits on her porch for the visitor she knows will arrive soon.  When Katherine sees the dust of the approaching car, she settles herself on the porch swing.  She knows her daughter, Lacey, is in the vehicle, and she begins to remember what brought her to this moment in her life.

Several years earlier Katherine gets a phone call from a woman in Houston.  The woman says Lacey had dropped off Katherine’s granddaughter, Rio, with the assertion that she would return in a few hours.  When Lacey doesn’t show up for four days, the woman tracks her down and threatens to call the police.  Lacey pleads with the neighbor to call Katherine instead.

Blown away by the enormity of the task before her, Katherine stays in the moment anyway and convinces the woman to put Rio on a plane from Houston to Arizona so Katherine can bring her home.  Tentative at first both Katherine and Rio don’t know quite what to do with each other, but as time passes Rio comes to trust her grandmother and love her with the ferocity Katherine has missed from her own daughter.

Despite Rio’s loyalty Katherine still questions her own mothering skills.  Lacey can’t seem to stay sober or employed long enough to provide for her own daughter, the product of a high school romance.  But Rio’s continued confidence and faith in her “Mimi” gives Katherine the encouraging boost she needs.  As the years pass and Rio continues to live with Katherine, Katherine comes to realize that Lacey made certain choices that were out of her control and that she has to let go of the blame and guilt for them.

Just as Katherine and Rio settle into an easy routine and rhythm, Lacey makes another appearance in their lives—one in the string of many—and Katherine finds herself making a difficult choice.

Author Estelle handles the emotional portions of the story with ease.  She has dedicated this short story to her own grandchildren and can probably identify with Katherine’s driving force to care for the child in her home—an emotion all grandparents feel for the young children in their lives.  Some of the dialogue may move the story a little too quickly, a possible consequence from Estelle’s depth of experience as a YA writer.  She doesn’t always take the time and luxury afforded by an adult story to fully develop the characters’ feelings and interactions.  These elements, however, become only minor hitches to the story as a whole; with time and a little practice, Estelle no doubt has the makings of a fine adult short story author.  Even with its small hiccups “At What Price?” winds to a satisfying and touching end.

I highly recommend “At What Price?” for readers who enjoy good stories about the challenges families face today.


What the ratings mean:

Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection.  It’s definitely worth it!

Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.

Bypass it–Free time is precious.  Don’t spend it on this book!

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