Prather’s Pick: 'Heaven is Paved with Oreos' is a coming-of-age book

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— Sarah Zorn has a very “interesting” grandmother. Known as the family as “Z,” this 63-year-old granny can make an adventure out of most anything — like shopping for pencils, planning a diet (sometimes just one color of food each day of the week) or reading the fortunes in fortune cookies.

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Diane Prather

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"Heaven is Paved with Oreos" by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

As a matter of fact, this week’s book about Sarah and Z got its title from a fortune cookie — or rather from what Z wrote in addition to the fortune. “Hell is paved with good intentions” is what was written on the little piece of paper inside the cookie. Z quickly added her own words: “Heaven is paved with Oreos.” (Z loves Oreos.)

"Heaven is Paved with Oreos" was written by Catherine Gilbert Murdock and is published by Houghton Mifflin Publishing Co. (2013). The book was written with middle school (up to high school) ages in mind.

It was Z who gave Sarah a journal, and Sarah begins writing in it in June, just as summer is getting started. Her journal becomes the book, with one or more entries each day.

Z lives in Prophetstown; Sarah’s family lives in Red Bend. Z loves Prophetstown because the town has art galleries, yoga, a cool hippie restaurant and lots of music. Z enjoys the concerts and festivals most of all, especially the music of the '60s and '70s.

So Z arranges to have a friend of hers give Paul, Sarah’s brother, music lessons. (Paul is musically gifted.) The problem is that Paul has to take the lessons in Prophetstown. His parents arrange for D.J. Schwenk to drive him, since she will be going there for a basketball “thing” anyway. Paul doesn’t want to go alone with D.J., so he gets Sarah to go, too. Sarah is delighted because she can walk Z’s dog, Jack Russell George, and get paid for it, too.

D.J. has a brother, Curtis, who is Sarah’s friend. Curtis and Sarah will be freshmen this fall, and they’re planning a big science project for the science fair. They will assemble a calf skeleton after the meat is gone off the bones. They have covered the dead calf, which they have named Boris, to let nature take its course. (Last year, they won third place on their project “Desiccation and Its Effects,” using dried rats.)

The other kids tease Curtis and Sarah about “going out,” so they come up with a plan they have named “Brilliant Outflanking Strategy” in which they pretend to be “going out.” But do they really like each other as boyfriend-girlfriend? It’s something Sarah thinks about, especially when Emily Friend (really Emily Enemy) is around.

So, it seems that the summer is all planned out until Z comes to dinner one night and drops a bombshell. She announces that she is going to Rome this summer and wants Sarah to go with her. While there, they will visit seven churches. Sarah will have a lot to write about in her journal.

There’s more to Z’s visit to Rome than she’s telling, and by the book’s end, Sarah and her family will learn a lot about this granny’s earlier life. By the book’s end, Sarah will learn something about herself, too. It’s a coming-of-age book.

This book captures the thoughts and dialogue of a young teen. It’s a fun book. "Heaven is Paved with Oreos" costs $16.99 in hardcover. It also is a new book at the Craig Moffat County Library.

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