The heroine of the novel named for her, Sara Barefield was born into a poor white Southern family. Ashamed of her family name and embarrassed by her poverty, she had two dreams when she was growing up: to go to college to become a teacher and to marry Tully Rutland. College was impossible financially, but making a life with Tully, the only man she ever loved, would have been a reality if he hadn't come back from Vietnam with PTSD. At the age of forty, she has accepted the loss of her dreams and is satisfied that she has at least lifted herself out of poverty with a nice apartment and a good job as a school secretary.
Tully commits suicide before Sara tells him that she's pregnant. Devastated, she realizes that her only choice is to move out of town if she wants to raise her baby without the interference of the Rutlands, who have never approved of her. She knows she'll need public assistance, but she believes it will only be temporary. She had climbed out of poverty once and is sure she can do it again.
Reality hits Sara when she goes to rent an apartment in a new town with the meager amount of money she can afford to pay. She must apply for food stamps and WIC to survive; she gets medical care at a public clinic. Her interview by a caseworker to obtain welfare is eye-opening. She begins to measure her experiences by degrees of humiliation. After the birth of the baby she can no longer afford to pay her rent, and she is threatened with eviction from her apartment. "I kept thinking that this was all a bad dream, that until a few weeks ago I was a hard-working, tax-paying citizen, that Adam and I couldn't end up living on the street, not us, not here in America. Certainly the system I had contributed to all my life would come to my rescue."
Sara isn't a quitter. She does what is necessary to survive, and the reader goes on this incredible journey with her, accompanying a decent, determined woman as she wends her way through the underside of American life, fighting to achieve her dreams. You'll cheer her on as she tells you her compelling story.
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