Study Guide

Carolyn in The Usual Rules

By Joyce Maynard


When Wendy meets Carolyn, Garrett's girlfriend, she sees her as the ultimate Californian cool girl. Carolyn is super laid-back, lives on a cactus farm, and can read palms—how much more of a stereotypical Californian hippie could she be? Carolyn promises Wendy that she'll never try to replace her mother, but that instead she'll be there for her as a friend. She makes it clear she's all ears if Wendy ever needs an older female perspective on things:

You probably have tons of other people you'd want to talk to before me, Carolyn said. If not out here, in New York anyway. And, of course, there's always your father. But just so you know, if the situation ever comes up where you need a woman to talk to, I'd do my best. (20.128)

Because Carolyn is so kind and understanding with Wendy, they become super comfortable with each other. Carolyn is the one Wendy goes to when she wants to talk about Josh and Kate hooking up, and she even goes to buy cacti for Carolyn's farm. Carolyn also shares her own life and problems with Wendy, revealing that when she was young, she had a baby that she gave up for adoption and that it was a difficult decision:

Maybe someday he'll come back to you. Some people who are adopted track down their birth mother when they get older.

Maybe he will, maybe he won't, she said. It would be one great day if he did. But I don't kid myself. I'm not his mother anymore. (20.114-115)

Although Carolyn doesn't have her own kids to take care of now, she happily takes care of Wendy, and even Violet and Walter Charles when they need it. She may be laid-back, but Carolyn is someone that Wendy can definitely depend on.