Monday, December 26, 2005

Tender Age In Bloom

I had this feeling that when I reviewed my mom's new book, there would be some major Red Sox news the next morning that would knock her out of the top spot on my blog. Sure enough, the biggest news of the year came out right after I posted the review. So, here it is if you missed it:

There's a real writer in my family. Her name is Mom. Although, for some reason, on her latest book's cover, she is referred to as "Mary-Ann Tirone Smith." Who knows if this error will be caught before the second printing.

The book is called Girls of Tender Age.

After seven novels, Mom tries her hand at memoir-ery, and succeeds anti-terriblejobfully. The book takes you back and forth between the story of Mom's childhood in the ghetto* in Hartford, Connecticut, and that of a murderer who found his way to her neighborhood when she was eight years old. The way she ties the stories together is masterful.

The writing style is unique, too, and makes you really feel like you know Mom's family personally.

Now, since I'm the author's son, I actually do know a lot of them personally. But, I'm telling you, you'll feel like they're your own family. Of course, I never met many of them, like the relatives from my great-grandfather's generation. I remember my grandpa telling me how when his father would hear the first pitch of a Red Sox game, and it was a strike to a Red Sox batter, he's say "That's it, they're gonna lose." I know a lot of you can appreciate that. Hey, Mom, you totally should have put that in the book.

There are other Red Sox references, of course, as is my mom's tradition in her books. I think my love of Mike Greenwell got him a mention once. Don't know if Gedman ever made the cut, however.

Another interesting thing is how she compares the inner-workings of the murderer to that of her autistic brother, who I always knew as "Uncle Tyler." It was always just kind of funny when we'd be at my grandparents' summer cottage, and we'd hear Tyler yelling "Say blue!" whenever someone would mention the color red, or when my mom would tell us to flush the toilet twice, because that's how many times Tyler needed to hear it. Maybe it didn't seem too odd because it's all we knew when we were around him. Or maybe it was because I could relate, as sometimes when I look down and see my right shoe, I feel like I have to look again and see my left one to "even it out." Obviously, Tyler's case was the extreme, whereas I can function in society without telling people go out of their way to do certain things to make me comfortable. Tyler felt so much pain when things weren't just right that he would hurt himself physically to drown out the mental pain.

So, for me, as a kid, it was no big deal on those few days a year when we'd be around Tyler. But to hear how my mom and her parents dealt with Tyler for a lifetime makes you realize how incredibly difficult it is to live with and care for autistics.

It was good to learn all this stuff about my mom's side of the family, as well as what she went through later in her life, like realizing her father has forgotten not only everyone's name, but also how to speak, ravished by Alzheimer's, while I was at Little League games, playing with baseball cards (which she bought for me), going off to college, etc.**

Also, check out the picture of me in the book. It rules.

I don't really know how to review a book. I feel like I'm giving stuff away. I mean, just to say that there's a murderer involved-- now you know he's gonna murder someone. But I guess you're supposed to know that going in. Still, I'm gonna shut up now.

Buy the book on Amazon right here or go to your local book store, like Borders, B & N, or preferrably a mom & pop type store if one exists near you.

It's also available on audio book if you don't know how to read. That also makes a great gift for your blind friends. My mom read it herself, as opposed to having some lame actor mess it up. [Update, 2/6/2007: Now available in paperback.]

Danielle Martin contributed to the win with stellar defense for Ridgefield Oil.***

*My mom always told us she grew up in the ghetto. It never made sense to me, her coming from the same place as Arnold and Willis. After reading the book, I understand.

**I think my mom once told me not to use "etc." in writing. My bad. It just seemed to fit there.

***This is a tribute to Mom, who always wrote up my Little League games for the local newspaper, since I'm now writing a review of her performance.

Cool. I bought a copy through your amazon link. I hope you get a kickback from amazon.
Jer, I already ordered the book, since I'm going to meet the auther and have her sign it. And right in my hometown, West Hartford. Should I call her Mrs. Smith, or Jere's Mom? I'll figure it out. All mother's love me, especially the ones in the past whose daughters I was going out with. It was amazing.
And of course I meant misspell when writing about a real-life author is fairly silly. But so am I.
Ghetto--Hartford?I don't get it.

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Location: Rhode Island, United States