I liked that book Wicked a lot, and I liked the last book in that series, but I never really gravitated too strongly to any of Gregory Maguire's other novels. I love his YA and, most of all, his books for children. But I remember so strongly -- like it's a bruise -- this scene in Confessions Of An Ugly Stepsister where the Stepmother takes her daughter, the title character, aside. They only have one pair of skates between them, the two daughters who are not Cinderella. And the mom pulls this shit:
"Look, and see how it is: The rich have skates and warm cloaks and there's a carriage converted to an ice boat! They can enjoy this oddness and take new pleasure in it. And the poor suffer even harder. Warmth is scarce and food is absent. You can't live long on ice and snow."
"So are we rich or poor?" asks Iris.
"One skate to your name? You tell me," says Margarethe.
"Balance very carefully, my dear. Very carefully indeed."
Always stuck between rich and poor, between being a part of the house and knowing it can be taken away if you make the wrong call or you're too careless or even if the gods are just feeling capricious. Not to get too far into it, but that's something I really identified with from my own complicated household/childhood -- Maguire's too, in fact -- and it's something that really got me in this scene, just thinking about how much of Joanna's life has been about balancing in that way. To know that your whole life is to be never quite one thing or the other.
And then, how Sofia must feel pretty much the same way. And I remembered how struck I was, in this very part of the house in fact, when Sofia said that thing about how hard it is, to be a guest in someone else's house.
Samantha comes running into the foyer with the Tater Tots, looking a mess, and she's calming the freaked-out girls in their usual chaos for a bit before she can break away enough to explain what's going on to Joanna: "I can't even. Someone attacked Edward in our garage. He has a concussion. They stole his car... I wasn't there. The girls and I were coming home and we see Ed's car driving toward us with some dark-haired man behind the wheel. It was like this bad dream..."
The red bean/kidney bean thing is totally redeemed here because it's basically the same trick -- Joanna asks just the right questions to get us out of the scene -- but it works really well. She quickly and intuitively narrows it down to Edward's parking pass and Bowers ID, pretty much confirming it was Ben, breaking into IT and then immediately runs off to meet him there. There's even a cute note where Samantha's like, hysterical, "Are you going to cancel Edward's work ID? Since you're the CEO's admin?" Which is exactly the kind of weird question you would think to ask at this time. Anyway, it's great.