on January 4, 2008
It's 1959, and in ten short years Sally O'Malley has had a very busy life, both real and imagined. Two years ago her daddy died in a car accident and left Sally, her mother, her little sister, Troo, and her older half-sister, Nell. Shortly after her daddy died, Sally and family moved into the city of Milwaukee from their farm. It wasn't long before her mother met Hall and he became her third husband. Now her mother is sick and has to go to the hospital, and nobody knows how long she'll be gone. Nell is too busy with her boyfriend to pay much attention to her younger sisters. Hall is taking his solace in alcohol and other women. Which leaves Sally to take care of Troo. Since she promised Daddy she would look after her, that's exactly what she intends to do.
It's pretty hard to watch, take care of, and try to raise a little girl when you're still one yourself. Especially when you're on the loose for a whole summer and you don't know where your next bath, much less next meal, is going to come from. Add in the rumors of a serial killer who's after children... Between their real problems and Sally's overactive imagination, this summer will be anything but dull. Making it through the summer is only the beginning.
This a book with so many different levels. It's the story of a girl who is forced to take the first step away from childhood. It's the story of a damaged family. It's the story of women who don't know their own strength. It's a story of the underlying terror of a murderer, and at the same time a story of freedom. It's a story of a simpler time. Underneath all of that, it is the story of a city.
The characters in this novel are strong and well-written. The plot is interesting, and takes more than a few surprising twists and turns. The story is actually extremely plausible for the time frame, back when people didn't lock their doors and neighborhoods took care of their own.
The part that touched me the most though was the amazing ability with which Ms. Kagen has managed to evoke the feeling of the time and place. I grew up in Milwaukee (I swear I had no idea), granted it was a few decades later, but the feeling was almost exactly the same. I don't know how else to explain it, but reading this book felt like going home.
A multi-layered book that more than delivers on all levels. For me, it was worth it the first time, and will continue to be so again and again.
Reviewed by: Carrie Spellman