A debut novel by poet Bialosky (Wanting a Child, 1998) about a young woman’s attempt to come to terms with her unhappy childhood.
Anna Crane is going to be married. That’s enough to make anyone wistful, but Anna has another reason to be jittery: The wedding will be in her hometown of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, where she hasn’t set foot since she basically ran away from home decades ago. A middle child, Anna was the second daughter of Lilly and Lawrence Crane, a happy Russian-Jewish couple from Cleveland. Lawrence was a builder who made good money during the housing boom of the 1950s and settled his family in a beautiful home far removed from the grit of midwestern city life—but died suddenly in 1961 while changing a light bulb. Lilly’s grief knew no bounds: Not only had she lost her husband, she found herself thrown on the mercy of in-laws who considered her beneath Lawrence in the first place. With no intention of working, Lilly began cultivating men the way gardeners do plants, finally marrying the rich but unpleasant (and gentile) Max McCarthy. Anna puts up with her mother’s flirtatious ways better than her older sister Ruthie—who goes to live with her aunt after her mother remarries—but that’s partly because Anna feels she has more to learn than her sister. For some time, after all, the teenaged Anna has been obsessing over Austin Cooper, a hapless but handsome classmate who has dropped out of school to work as a stablehand. An ignoramus and a gambler, Austin is the wrong man for Anna, but she falls for him in the hopeless style of the young and becomes pregnant. Meanwhile, Lilly, who has been telling Anna what she must do to “win” Austin, seems to be taking an interest in him herself.
Soap opera, but a pretty good one, with a feel for the era (the ’70s), and a nicely satisfying end.