Book Review: The Boston Girl
“When I look at my eighty-five-year-old face in the mirror today, I think, “You’re never going to look better than you do today, honey, so smile.” Whoever said a smile is the best face-lift was one smart woman.” Addie Baum in The Boston Girl
I felt tremendous pressure to enjoy this week's read, The Boston Girl, by Anita Diamant.
Diamant is the author of The Red Tent which has a tremendous fan base and has earned Diamant a loyal following. I didn't love The Red Tent though I read it so many years ago I don't recall why. (I do remember causing a big stir at book club as being the lone, or nearly lone, dissenter).
Still the Boston Girl came highly recommended, plus it has 4 stars on Goodreads and Amazon.
And so I kept an open mind.
The book begins in 1985 as Addie tells her story to her adult granddaughter, Ava. Addie winds back her life to the early 1900's recalling the details of what unfolded.
“I’m still embarrassed and mad at myself. But after seventy years, I also feel sorry for the girl I used to be. She was awfully hard on herself.”
There was plenty to like in the main character Addie Baum, a daughter of an immigrant Jewish family. Addie is strong and adventurous and is equipped with all of the plucky character traits you would wish for a daughter. She's smart, confident, and optimistic.
“She said, 'Hiking is the same thing as walking, only hotter and twice as far as you want to go. But usually, you’re glad you went.'”
“'Nothing is as good as it used to be.' I swore I would never talk like that and you know what? Now that I’m an old lady myself, I think that most things are better than they used to be. Look at the computers.”
Addie offers tidbits of insight along the way which are beautiful and wise.
“According to the Talmud, if a funeral procession and a wedding procession cross paths, the wedding party goes first. Life is more important than death.”
“When a shy person smiles, it's like the sun coming out.”
I love her insights on Jewish culture and I appreciate the tone of the novel which is supportive of women. However, the book had one fatal flaw for me: for all of Addie's charm, the storyline was slow.
The single person narrative was simplistic and far too linear to give the characters breathing room. The result was monologue-like with only shallow projections about other people's thoughts and motivations.
The events around Addie's life certainly covered a big span of topics: ethnic discrimination, religious norms, child labor conditions, suffrage, abortion, workplace discrimination, immigration, education, suicide, sibling rivalry, friendship, affairs, creativity, grief, poverty....
The book is only 300 pages long so each of those areas is merely touched on without much exploration, depth, or complexity.
I simply wanted to be more engaged.
Maybe coming off of the high action read from last week set my benchmark too high for a novel. I'll try something different next week.