Sunday, October 9, 2011

Review: Good Graces by Lesley Kagen

ISBN #: 978-0525952381
Page Count: 352
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from book jacket)

Whistling in the Dark captivated readers with the story of ten-year-old Sally O'Malley and her sister, Troo, during Milwaukee's summer of 1959.  The novel became a New York Times bestseller and was named a Midwest Honor Award winner.

In Good Graces, it's one year later, and a heat wave has everyone in the close-knit Milwaukee neighborhood on edge.  None more so than Sally O'Malley, who remains deeply traumatized by the sudden death of her daddy and her near escape from a murderer and molester the previous summer.  Although outwardly she and her sister, Troo, are more secure, Sally's confidence in her own judgment and much of her faith have been whittled away.  When a series of disquieting events unfold in the neighborhood - a string of home burglaries, the escape from reform school of a nemesis, and the mysterious disappearance of an orphan, crimes that may involve the increasingly rebellious Troo - Sally is called upon to rise above her inner demons.  She made a deathbed promise to her daddy to keep Troo safe, a promise she can't break, even if her life depends on it.  But when events reach a crisis point, will Sally have the courage and discernment to make the right choices?  Or will her false assumptions lead her and those she loves into danger once again?

Charlene's Review:

Good Graces is the sequel to Ms. Kagen's novel, Whistling in the Dark.  I have not read her first book, but was glad to find that Good Graces stands on its own.  The main characters of the book are the O'Malley sisters, Sally and Troo, although it is narrated through Sally.  Sally spends the summer of 1960 trying to keep her promise to her deceased father, to watch over her sister, who makes it very difficult.  If that weren't enough, their hometown is being plagued by a cat burglar, a neighborhood bully has escaped from reform school, and an orphaned altar boy has disappeared.  Along with a ragtag group of friends, Troo hatches a plan to solve the mysteries surrounding their home.

The way the story was written, in the voice of an 11 year old girl, gave the story an innocent feel, in spite of all the drama going on.  Ms. Kagen's imagery of the town was so believable, it felt like home.  Wry humor that pointed to such "unspoken" topics of the 60's, like race, sexual orientation, unwed pregnancy, and other dirty little secrets were sprinkled throughout and gave it a charming quality that added to the innocence.

I enjoyed this story.  It was bittersweet, as Sally deals with a task that is much bigger than she is, and somewhat dark, as they face dangers even they do not understand.  I would also caution anyone sensitive to Catholicism, as the content could be seen as offensive to some.  All in all, I would say it is a beautifully written story about familial love, and the ties that bind us.

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