THE FRIENDSTONE by Martha Derman


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This story of the 1920s deals with bigotry, friendship, and the good influence of a loved great-grandmother. It opens with the passing of a Ku Klux Klan parade: Sally's mother won't let her little brothers applaud for fear of what the neighbors will say. Sally's father, though, seems to approve of the Klan. Later when he drives Sally, eleven, up for her stay with Aunt Samantha and Grandma in the Catskills, he bemoans the Jewish city folk ""cluttering up the mountains."" Sally too is uncharmed when she meets the girl from the Buick that annoyed Dad: Foreward Evie pushes her way into a ride with Aunt Samantha, clinches sales with customers at Aunt Samantha's gift shop, and asks to have every item she admires. But Sally comes to realize that this is just Evie's way, and she's impressed by Evie's more sophisticated family who are staying at ""Grossman's"" hotel. Above all, Grandma's guiding statements induce Sally to think about her own attitudes and behavior regarding Evie and other matters. When Grandma dies toward the end of the visit, Evie offers comfort and shows up to help Sally ""sit shiva."" In making Evie so glaringly Jewish, Derman avoids the common children's-book pretense that children of different backgrounds have no alienating differences in the way of their friendship. However, at a level where most characters are somewhat overdrawn and simplified anyway, Evie's characterization can come across as offensive stereotype. The problem here may be that Derman's art is not up to her intention.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1981
Publisher: Dial