This is an absolute gem of a book. Written about a young woman's experience from the perspective of a grown woman looking down the long pipe of experience, it rings true on every page.
Reading this beautifully told story was like stepping into, and becoming a part of the story itself, to become an additional character, or wish you were. That is how real these characters became and how much you came to care about them. Told in a gently meandering stlye, full of the rich details of nature and emotion, each sentence a song unto itself. Theresa, the only child of older parents, smart, exceptionally pretty, living on Long Island and attending a private girl's school, spends her summers caring for neighbor's pets and children. Alone much ! of the time, though not lonely, she is not a part of any social group and doesn't appear to have any girlfriends.
The story takes place in the summer of her 15th year. Her young cousin Daisy, eight years old and a favorite of hers, comes to spend
a few weeks away from her large (eight children) family. Theresa has a genuine way with children and pets, gentle, respectful, patient, appreciative,wise, weaving magical, enchanting stories and making creative, intuitive games out of simple activities. They adore her, as you come to in the course of the story. She truly cares for them, in a way the other adults in the story can't seem to bring themselves to. In fact they fall shamefully short of not only understanding, but into the catagory of negelect. This summer is a turning point in Theresa's life, and although it includes a brief, strange entanglement with an artist, father of one of her charges, it is her relationship to Daisy, "poor Daisy" that closes the door on her own idealic childhood. The author, Alice McDermott is a master of both word and mood. I was moved by this book in a way I can't quite grasp or describe, except to say that as I read it, I lived it. That I can enter the story through the skill of and author is without a doubt, remarkable! Read this book
This book was recommended to me via FABIL, and it was a dud. I think it must have been recommended b/c I like ann patchett's writing. Alice McDermott is an Ann Patchett wannabe. The story was distractingly unrealistic, full of awkward metaphors and odd descriptions. I gave it 1.5 stars because it has a racy subplot that involves the unrealistically sweet and capable 15 year old protagonist seducing an elderly, world famous painter (with rotting teeth). When near-miss statuatory rape is the highlight of a book, you know it's time to move on.
The senseless, gruesome deaths of numerous scruffy little animals provide a not particularly subtle foil to the main plot line.
Quite honestly, it was a little boring. A girl's summer as a babysitter on the East End of Long Island. Yawn......
Unabridged - 6 cassettes - 8.5 hours
Well-written but predictable, Alice McDermott's âChild of My Heartâ charts a Long Island summer when a precocious teen, collector of broken things, crosses the threshold of adulthood.
Growing up an only child on a part of Long Island which seems to have only summer people and their assorted young offspring in it, Theresa babysits, walks dogs, comforts the emotionally neglected neighbor kids, and opens her heart especially to her cousin Daisy, the middle child of seven siblings, whose fey presence immediately sets up an internal tension. The events of the summer's end advance inexorably, and some readers will drag their feet in an attempt to avoid what has been foreordained from the very beginning.
Theresa is also walking another tightrope â fifteen and beautiful, she attracts the attention of more than one of the adult males on the island, and here is where the story drifts into deep and uncomfortable waters. Theresa seems preternaturally aware of her own sexuality, neither encouraging nor discouraging her lecherous elder suitors, handling their attentions and her responses to them with an almost clinical detachment. The growing attraction between the teen and a 70-year-old artist is, frankly, uncomfortable to read, though the actions are never described in anything but G-rated terms.
Theresa is so capable with her young charges, so level-headed, so tenderly attentive to Daisy, that she is scarcely believable as a real teen. Beautifully written, yes â and the characteristics McDermott endows her with are absolutely critical to the unfolding of the plot. But there are moments when the reader wants her to simply break loose and BE fifteen years old â moon over a local boy, listen to pop radio, consider her shortcomings in a mirror, and daydream about what she will do when she grows up. That's all irrelevant to the story McDermott is determined to tell, so it's simply not addressed.
There are some chewy notions in here â child neglect that doesn't always depend on physical violence; the dangerous waters of burgeoning sexuality that borders on pedophilia; an adult society that is parallel to but not really involved with its young â but most of it gets buried under McDermott's portrait of a not-quite-woman shouldering the cloak of the Maiden Goddess.
Very good story, but sad and on the depressing side.