SPEND IT FOOLISHLY by Mary Gallagher


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With decisive blue-penciling and a modicum of shaping, the American-in-Paris adventures of freckled Kerry from Cleveland could have been sheer delight. As it is, they ramble and peter out, but not before delivering about a hundred genuinely entertaining pages (nothing to sneeze at), a few dozen sizable and honest laughs (ditto), and an authentic, unforced, wisecracking narrator: Dorothy-Parker prickly, non-virginal but old-fashioned, 21-year-old Kerry, who, having worn out her only two dresses (she calls them ""Julie"" and ""Tricia"") while code-filing in Ohio, decides to blow her savings on three weeks in Europe. Three weeks, however, are not enough, since they're wasted in the hideously hokey company of fellow Clevelander Grace (a surefire, slightly overdrawn foil). So Kerry stays on, brushing up against the malodorous fringes of the Parisian-American hippie community but resolving to go it alone through the winter--as an au pair. Kerry's career as a starved, homesick, overworked, underpaid nanny (""What fun! A catatonic baby, and a schizophrenic toddler. . . the French Bad Seed"") provides marvelously detailed and unexaggerated comedies of desperation and vignettes of French-neurotique domesticity. What follows--Kerry's passport-losing, hitchhiking, and hostel disasters on the Riviera and in Italy--is a let-down and a trail-off, But don't let the excess baggage keep you from traveling with Gallagher and Kerry; skim if you must, but young female voices that are naturally comic, without straining for cuteness or hipness or adorableness, are a precious commodity.

Pub Date: April 14th, 1978
Publisher: Atheneum