Object Lessons Hardcover – Apr 9 1991
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From Publishers Weekly
Readers of her "Life in the 30s" column in the New York Times (collected in Living Out Loud ) know Quindlen as an astute observer of family relationships. Her first novel is solid proof that she is equally discerning and skillful as a writer of fiction. To sensitive Maggie Scanlan, the summer when she turns 13 is "the time when her whole life changed." Aware that her father, Tommy, had outraged the wealthy Scanlan clan by marrying the daughter of an Italian cemetery caretaker, Maggie is a bridge between her "outcast" mother and her grandfather, whose favorite she is. Domineering, irascible, intolerant John Scanlan looks down on both Pope John XXII and President Kennedy for deviating from traditional Catholic doctrine. His iron hand crushes his wife and grown children, and when he decides that Maggie's parents and their soon-to-be-five offspring should move from their slightly shabby Irish Catholic Bronx suburb to a large house in Westchester which he has purchased for them, tension between her parents escalates and Maggie's loyalties are tested. But other unexpected events--her grandfather's stroke, her mother's attraction to a man of her own background, her best friend's defection, her first boyfriend--serve both to unsettle Maggie and to propel her across the threshold to adulthood. Quindlen's social antennae are acute: she conveys the fierce ethnic pride that distinguishes Irish and Italian communities, their rivalry and mutual disdain. Her character portrayal is empathetic and beautifully dimensional, not only of Maggie but of her mother, who experiences her own wrenching rite of passage. This absorbing coming-of-age novel will draw comparisons with the works of Mary Gordon, but Quindlen is a writer with her own voice and finely honed perceptions. Literary Guild alternate; author tour.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
YA-- This first novel is an insightful family chronicle, an informed commentary on the '60s, and the coming-of-age depiction of a mother and daughter. As 13-year-old Maggie struggles with her identity within the boisterous Scanlan clan, her mother also finds her own place within the patriarchal family that has never accepted her. Both women experience rites of passage during the fateful summer that a housing development is being built behind their home, infringing on their emotional and physical spaces. A fast-paced plot involves small fires set in the development by Maggie's friends and romantic tension between her mother and a man from her past. Readers will appreciate Maggie's dilemmas as she grapples with peer pressure and sexual bewilderment, and as she begins to understand her mother, whose discontent oddly parallels her own. --Jackie Gropman, Richard Byrd Library, Springfield, VA-
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
Too many characters, too many POV, to the point where you really got them confused. No plot, no story. The cliches were enough to make you cry, as were the stereotyped characters. The mean and demanding family patriarch, the family feud because a member married someone who wasn't their own kind, the precocious 13 year old girl. None of these characters are really explained, or have any depth. For example, why does Connie start seeing another man? Why is Maggie intrigued with fire? Why is her cousin so mean? And what's with the nun, who was reading Jane Eyre? Whatever was that about?
I couldn't wait to return this trash to the library. I seriously thought about just telling the library I had lost it, so no one else would mistakenly take this out, thinking that the Quindlen name means its a decent read.
Unfortunatly, I was disappointed. One of the best things that a novelist can do for his/her book is to pare down the number of characters and then give them each many dimensions and depth...make them real, make them matter.
I felt as though there were way too many characters in the book to really become attached to any of them. 12 year old Maggie occupies most of the story, but her conflicts are not well examined. Why does she care so much about losing her ditzy friend? Why is she drawn to fire? What is her *feeling* about fire? Why does she cling to a grandfather that alienates her mother? Why does her ex-best friend's much adored older sister favor her so much and vice versa? Either the character has limited feelings, or the depth of her emotion is only slightly alluded to on the page. There are about five or six other characters that are given significant portions, but at a scant 261 pages, the reader doesn't get to know or love them well. You wonder what makes Monica so mean, why Connie considers cheating, why Tommy won't partner with his brother, why Celeste is in the book at all.
I felt that the end dragged on, and was riddled with cliches. Every other line seems to begin with, "And she knew..." ...[the voice in her head] was her grandfather's voice. ...that 20 years from now she would still hear all those voices ...that as long as they stayed there sheould be able to do all the things she had to do ...that even a week from now things would be different.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Yes, it's "that summer" for the young preteen girl when everything seems to change. She muddles through changing friendships, her parents' possible marriage problems,... Read morePublished on Jan. 24 2004
This is the best book I have read in a long time. Many of my friends complained that it moved too slowly, but I attribute that slowness to the development of the characters. Read morePublished on July 6 2003 by K L Keaton
I wanted to, I really did! But I just can't bring myself to do it. I read "One True Thing" and "Black and Blue" and loved them both. Read morePublished on Aug. 6 2002 by Robert Reardon
This book is clearly the work of an amateur; it reads as though it is Ms. Quindlen's first work, perhaps left unpublished since early adolescence (and with GOOD reason), and picked... Read morePublished on Jan. 7 2002 by Pamela
I read Anna Quindlen's column regularly, for over a decade, in "The New York Times." I clipped many of them and saved them. I thought she was a wonderful writer. Read morePublished on Nov. 8 2001
This is a good coming-of-age story not only for adults, but for advanced teen readers as well. However, it's not just the story of Maggie, a 12 year old at a watershed between... Read morePublished on April 25 2001 by Amy
I first read Eavan Boland in an Irish literature class in college. Her writing is magical, lyrical, ethereal and forces you realize the power of identity, language, culture. Read morePublished on Oct. 11 2000 by Adrienne K. Yee
I am so glad that I took this book out of the library and didn't waste money on it. There was no plot to speak of, the characters were so sterotyped--Irish Catholics vs Italian... Read morePublished on Aug. 24 2000