WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR
Recollections of a '50s Girlhood
Pulitzer Prize--winning historian Goodwin (No Ordinary Time, 1994, etc.) turns her gaze inward, looking back on a childhood enlivened by books and baseball. In many ways Goodwin had a typical '50s girlhood. She grew up on suburban Long Island at a time when many families were relocating to such communities. Her father worked, her mother was a homemaker. Perhaps the biggest difference between Goodwin and other girls growing up in this era was her deep and abiding enthusiasm for baseball. When she was six, she recalls, her father gave her a score book and taught her how to use it, a gift that "opened [her] heart to baseball." Retelling games for her father's benefit after he came home from work was her "first lesson . . . in narrative art." One can easily see how re-creating these games from the score book taught her to harness her imagination to quotidian details to re-create history. If baseball bonded her more deeply to her father, books served the same purpose in her relationship with her mother, a sickly woman with severe angina and numerous other problems. Goodwin also offers a child's-eye view of the Cold War, from the lunacy of bomb shelters and "duck and cover" drills to a particularly disturbing memory of reenacting the McCarthy hearings with other neighborhood children. Gradually we see her neighborhood unraveling under economic pressures, the Dodgers and Giants moving to the West Coast, and finally, her mother dying of an apparent heart attack at 51. Regrettably, Goodwin recounts all this in unimaginative prose, offering surprisingly few original insights into either baseball or the sociopolitical currents of the time. Except for the final chapter about her mother's death and her father's subsequent depression and drinking problems, the book falls far short of her compelling historical narratives.