Tuesday, April 29, 2014

American Girl by Mary Cantwell

Born in 1930, Mary Cantwell developed her powers of observation growing up a bit of an outsider in Bristol, Rhode Island, during the Great Depression and War years. Catholic in a mainly Protestant neighborhood and school, she grew up in a close-knit, three-generation family. Her experiences were ordinary for the time and place, but her writing ability makes even mundane aspects of small town life vital and interesting: sharing a bedroom with a sister, having a glamorous aunt, attending school, surviving a polio epidemic, being a Girl Scout, celebrating the Fourth of July, going to the movies, the library, the park, church. Life was slower then and people seemed to do things in a more leisurely way. Today’s shopping experience will stand in stark contrast to a shopping trip with grandma to The Bluebird Shoppe where the ladies of Bristol bought their support garments. Each corset, slip and other unmentionable was removed from its own slender box and tissue paper for examination and fitting and then carefully replaced. With good humor and sincere affection, the author exposes the strengths and weaknesses of small-town homogeneous society, complete with its prejudices, bullying, and sense of safety and generosity of spirit.  American Girl: Scenes from a Small-Town Childhood shows us a world lost to progress. For everything gained, something is lost. 

Check out American Girl @ the library!