CAROUSEL OF PROGRESS by Katherine Tanney


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A former video artist and Story magazine finalist re-creates the plastic glamour of late 1970s L.A. in the tale of a young girl's coming of age.

Fourteen-year-old Meredith recounts her parents’ growing difficulties as she herself struggles with typical adolescent growing pains. The trouble seemingly begins when Leigh throws one of her incomprehensible (to her daughter) fits of dissatisfaction while on a family vacation, stranding husband Robert and Meredith by packing up and driving home with younger child Peter. But of course Leigh’s problems are more far-reaching than frustration at a dull weekend away. She’s fed up with stiff and unresponsive Robert and the Ozzie and Harriet life he seems to expect, while Robert can’t fathom why she would want anything to change. Soon they separate: Leigh gets a sports car and a romantic foreign lover; Robert ends up with a bachelor pad and a shlumpy neighbor whose wife has also kicked him out. Meanwhile, Meredith gets the de rigueur L.A. nose job, makes friends with a popular, anorexic girl, and begins dating a boy genius, a sweetheart who’s always stoned. With Dad out of the house, she also gets the full brunt of Mom’s mood swings, crying jags, and fits of rage. Tanney builds a forceful portrait of a woman desperately searching for some sort of self-definition but unable to find independence. An ongoing parade of boyfriends fills the void of Leigh’s stunted growth. Finally she meets Leo, loud, obnoxious, and as emotional as Robert is not. Robert too finds a new mate, Leo’s female counterpart, and the four form an amusing tableau of opposites attracted. With both parents remarried, Meredith (herself an old hand at disappointing relationships) can concentrate on what she wants—which is something, anything, better than what her parents had. The author's skill at depicting the tempo and mores of the ’70s far outweighs the mild disappointment prompted by a strangely abrupt close.

Still, a solid, often impressive debut offering a keen look at mother-daughter relations.

Pub Date: July 17th, 2001
ISBN: 0-375-50537-7
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Villard
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2001