The Gap Year

ISBN-10: 0307592790

Knopf (July 5, 2011)

From the widely praised author of The Yokota Officers Club and The Flamenco Academy, a novel as hilarious as it is heartbreaking about a single mom and her seventeen-year-old daughter learning how to let go in that precarious moment before college empties the nest.

In The Gap Year, told with perfect pitch from both points of view, we meet Cam Lightsey, lactation consultant extraordinaire, a divorcée still secretly carrying a torch for the ex who dumped her, a suburban misfit who’s given up her rebel dreams so her only child can get a good education.

We also learn the secrets of Aubrey Lightsey, tired of being the dutiful, grade-grubbing band geek, ready to explode from wanting her “real” life to begin, trying to figure out love with boys weaned on Internet porn.

When Aubrey meets Tyler Moldenhauer, football idol–sex god with a dangerous past, the fuse is lit. Late-bloomer Aubrey metastasizes into Cam’s worst silent, sullen teen nightmare, a girl with zero interest in college. Worse, on the sly Aubrey’s in touch with her father, who left when she was two to join a celebrity-ridden nutball cult.

As the novel unfolds—with humor, edge-of-your-seat suspense, and penetrating insights about love in the twenty-first century—the dreams of daughter, mother, and father chart an inevitable, but perhaps not fatal, collision . . .


“Best Summer Reads for 2011” Good Housekeeping, Town and Country, BookReporter

“Sarah Bird’s latest novel, The Gap Year, is a must-read for anyone who loves mother-daughter stories.” BookPage

“Told from both Cam’s and Aubrey’s perspectives, the narrative teases out the ever-deepening mysteries of parents and children as they grow up and apart. Bird’s breezy style and spot-on observations of contemporary family life give this headlong story a fizzy energy that carries through to the unexpected conclusion.” —Publishers Weekly

“…a novel which exudes that hard-to-define “oomph” factor.” Dallas Morning News

“…a soulful portrait of that awkward, exhilarating and bittersweet point when a mother has to let go.” Houston Chronicle

“…Bird’s novel, full of insight, acceptance and, above all, love.” Austin American-Statesman

“ …with a big, wide-open heart. . and gut-bucket humor, the wicked writer makes us think!” San Antonio Express-News

“Writing so sharp, smart, funny, and addictive it’s as if Molly Ivins had given birth to a novelist daughter.” —Z.Z. Packer

“…a flawless portrayal of modern parenting as insightful as it is entertaining.” John Pipkin, Woodsburner

“…mother-daughter tale fills summer bill.” Columbus Dispatch

“Told from alternating points-of-view, Bird’s handling of the familiar parent-teen clash of wills is accomplished with memorable, memorably realistic poignancy.” BookList

“…spot-on observations of contemporary family…carries through to the unexpected conclusion.” PW

“Mothers, daughters, the ever entertaining Sarah Bird, does it get any better?”

The Gap Year, haunting and laugh out loud funny, speaks to a mother’s soul. On every luminous page, I’m reminded how being a mother is like being a contortionist: we latch on even as we let go. Cam contemplates her daughter: ‘Certain and human, such a hard mix.’ This is a page-turner of a book for every mother who ever worried she wasn’t up to the hard parts—gracefully accepting the you-never-understood-me complaints our children make; rising above the condescension of smug, over-achieving mothers; accepting our own self-doubt as we measure ourselves against impossible ideals. Cam’s dilemma will feel like your dilemma from the moment you begin reading.” Debra Monroe, Outskirts of Normal

“Alternately hilarious and heartbreaking, The Gap Year is a pitch-perfect portrayal of a mother and teenage daughter on the precipice of seismic change. Everyone is given full rein in this snappy, deliciously vicious, modern spin on growing up, growing old, and letting go. Bird’s timing is impeccable.” —Cristina Garcia,  Dreaming in Cuban