From award-winning TV writer Harry Cauley, a first novel that celebrates the golden days of urban neighborhoods and tells a beguiling, unpretentious, and bittersweet coming-of-age story. In January 1942, Bridie O'Connor and her father, Laurie, move into a tightly knit, mainly Irish Catholic community in New Jersey, settling right across the street from narrator Finn. The fearless, feisty Bridie electrifies Finn's fourth-grade class on her first day by announcing, ``I hate nuns more than I hate the Japs,'' but her relentless curiosity and eagerness endear her to them all. She and Finn become close as they deal with equally difficult families: Laurie O'Connor drinks too much, while Finn's father can't accept his son's deformed leg, and his wife has never recovered from the death of a baby daughter. Finn's family verges on collapse after his underage brother, Fritz, enlists and convinces their father to sign the papers, an act that Mrs. Finn cannot forgive. She becomes ill and has to be hospitalized when again pregnant; Finn and his father barely communicate; later Fritz goes missing in action. After Laurie's sudden death, Bridie moves in with Finn and his father, insisting on keeping house for them while going to school. As she and Finn graduate from high school, Bridie makes a stunning revelation to her friend, who realizes too late that he loves her and always will. A tad sentimental in its evocation of childhood and community, but Bridie is a splendid creation, a female Huck with the same endearing mix of kindness and gutsy independence. A notable debut.