Young Ellen Brodsky feels as if she’s always been at odds with her mother, who makes it clear she regrets having children. Ellen’s father, a distant, cold man who works long hours, expects the children to be in bed when he comes home, offering Ellen no counterbalance to what she perceives as a loveless existence. Into her life steps Ellen’s grandmother, who died before Ellen was born, to become Ellen’s confidante and role model. As Ellen grows up, her dysfunctional family fractures and Ellen is forced to act more mature than she is as she struggles to take care of others with only her grandmother to console her and offer advice. When things seem to be improving, a tragedy occurs, and only then is a secret about her dead grandmother revealed to Ellen. Lissa Brown offers an intriguing look into the dynamics of a dysfunctional family circa the 1950s, told through the eyes of a young girl struggling to understand the reasons behind her parents’ actions. Baby boomers most especially will identify with this book due to the author’s skillful portrayal of the time and culture.
Brown shows a great aptitude for describing scenes so realistic the reader will feel as if s/he has stepped back in time and become part of the story. The characters are well-developed and the story one that will stay with the reader long after the book is finished.