WALKING MARY by James VanOosting


Age Range: 14 & up
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Walking Mary haunts Framburg, Illinois like a ghost, but she, an elderly African-American woman, is very much alive to Pearl Keenan, the white daughter of a self-righteous deacon. Pearl’s first encounter with the mysterious woman occurs at a Memorial Day picnic in 1948, when Mary rescues the six-year-old girl from a duck pond and, miraculously, cures her nearsightedness. Years pass, and Pearl becomes obsessed with Mary’s thrice-daily trips to the train station allegedly in search of her son, a WWI soldier. Slowly gaining Mary’s trust, Pearl cultivates a friendship that is all wrong with the small-minded community. Always looking on with fascination and concern is little brother Frankie, a boy who tries to protect Pearl from his father’s lecherous clutches—and everything else. His fresh, funny perspectives are the best part of this wonderfully expressive but too-often stumbling novel. Despite the flaws, VanOosting effectively captures the magic and intensity of childhood, keeping it buoyant amid serious themes of prejudice, molestation, religious hypocrisy and self-destruction in mid-20th century America. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: May 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-06-028471-4
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2005