In a sparkling debut, Karen Lee Boren offers an exquisitely rendered coming of age story about adolescent girls in small-town Wisconsin who learn that life’s real perils exist where they never imagined: in their own neighborhoods and homes. During a single summer in the 1970s, five friends while away the hours by torturing the Avon lady, playing four square, jumping rope, swimming, and perfecting the art of sneaking out for night runs to the lake. Then one night the unthinkable happens, forcing the girls into a world beyond childhood and the pull of young friendship.
Karen Lee gives an overview of the book:
The fact was no one loved her little thumb more than Jeanne herself. She fashioned tiny outfits for it—miniature hula skirts made from carefully beaded lawn clippings, maple leaf ponchos, and hollowed-out crab apple hats. One time she inked dark eyes and a black hank of hair. Then with the rest of her hand balled into a fist, she danced her little gypsy over the tops of boxes and stairs, accompanied by songs blaring from Corinne’s transistor radio: “Dark Lady” and “Hoochie Koo.”
It was a showgirl, that thumb, a tart, and its very superfluousness made us love it. It would never lift a finger in work. Both it and the bent thumb lessened Jeanne’s workload considerably. In summer we were the extra hands around the house, made useful by our parents, whose watchful eyes darted everywhere at once, rending us from each other like sleeping puppies pulled from the litter. And it wasn’t just our own parents’ gazes we had to worry about. Any mother or father could interrupt our play and send us home for chores or dinner. They all felt free to chastise us for tossing stones against someone else’s garage door or bulleting a parked car’s hood with a tennis ball. And as if all the parents were in on it together, they ensured no girl went without a steady stream of summer jobs. We were forced to work in family stores, to clean out crawl spaces and garages, to mow lawns, and to learn to can fruit or crock pickles in case there was another real war and food was rationed.
About Karen Lee
Karen Lee Boren received her MFA from Wichita State University and a PhD in English at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She teaches literature and creative writing at Rhode Island College. Her fiction has appeared in the Florida Review,Night Train, ...
Set during the 1970s in a neighborhood of eastern Europeans near the shores of Lake Michigan, this crisp, self-assured tale of five girls, ranging in age from 11 to 13, is told collectively, in the first-...