Coming-of-age tale from Siddons (Low Country, 1998, etc.) set in the South circa 1961.
When 13-year-old Peyton MacKenzie chops off her pigtails, with predictably catastrophic results, her kindly father, a widowed lawyer (an Atticus Finch clone), decides to enlist a female relative to help his awkward daughter through the throes of puberty. And by great good fortune, his dead wife's cousin just happens to be passing through. The small town of Lytton, Georgia, is about to get all shook up by the young and lovely Nora Findlay, a self-taught expert on practically everything that was hot stuff in the early ’60s, from the books of J.D. Salinger to bongos. Wreathed in cigarette smoke and wearing sexily eccentric outfits hitherto unseen in the land of pink shirtwaists and towering bouffants, Nora soon has all of Lytton talking. She drives a pink Thunderbird (recklessly) and teaches the Twist, not to mention the high school's first integrated honors English class. With equal aplomb, Nora discusses literature and talks dirty to the farm boys who goggle at her, and her utter disdain for convention infuriates the local biddies. Eventually, Nora's airy disregard for the town's entrenched racism and Jim Crow laws land her—and Peyton—in big trouble. Which doesn't stop Peyton from worshipping her . . . until Nora's odd choice of subject matter for Peyton's school recitation backfires disastrously. Enraged, Peyton betrays a secret that Nora would just as soon keep. Siddons’s antiheroine is an original, but the rest of the story is remarkably similar in characterization and tone to Carson McCullers's The Member of the Wedding, without that author's morbid genius. Still, Siddons's onrushing pace and whoop-de-do style have a charm all their own, and her loyal fans won't notice or care how much she borrows from other, better, books.
Quirky family drama mixed with a Forrest Gumpish catchall of early ’60s pop culture: sure to entertain, if not enlighten.