In this coming-of-age memoir, Conlon-McIvor channels her younger self, assuming the voice of the prepubescent child of a taciturn Federal agent.
She doesn’t tell us much about G-men chasing crooks, but the tone is definitely girlish. The author’s story, related in a surfeit of forced figures of speech that she supposes to be innocent and childlike, is of Dad in his fedora and “important black trousers,” Mom in her orange apron. For big events, precocious Maura wears her polka-dot red sizzler dress. Dad drives his family in his neat FBI car. Grandma has a brogue, and her walls are adorned with pictures of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin. On their walls, Mom and Dad have framed letters from Mr. J. Edgar Hoover. Maura’s heroes are Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and the detectives on Dragnet. Baseball and Mitch Miller provide background; supporting players include Mr. Hershey, Mrs. Eveready, Mother Perennial, and Mr. Cutlass. Of course, there are the boys upon whom to place a crush or two, and uncle priests Father Ed and doomed Father Jack. There are siblings, naturally, with particular focus on little Joey, a Down Syndrome child. Mom and Dad don’t communicate well: he objects to her “aggressiveness training,” and while “Dad fights against what’s wrong. . . . Mom stands for what’s right. The one place they come together for sure is when it’s about Joey.” The copyright page confesses that the tale “is told through the lens of memory and imagination,” which is perhaps how the author learned to do things when she got her doctorate in “Depth Psychology.” For emphasis, an epigraph notifies readers that the story “is inspired by historical events and is told as the heart sees best.” The fey filigree of similes is unrelenting and, like the words of a child, unconvincing.
Could be effectively pitched as a heartwarmer for young adults, but this jejune effort is seriously misplaced among adult nonfiction. (Photos)