THROUGH A RUBY WINDOW: A Martha's Vineyard Childhood by Susan Klein

THROUGH A RUBY WINDOW: A Martha's Vineyard Childhood

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Storyteller Klein lends a folksy flavor to these sweet, brief reminiscences, but in the end a childhood spent on Martha's Vineyard proves too similar to childhood everywhere. The title refers to the author's yearly ritual of making beachplum jelly with her German-born mother, an activity that calls up lots of metaphors (""Folks here on the island guard their beachplum locations with the fervor of pirates holding treasure maps"") but little plot; this and several other image-packed stories, like ""The Flying Horses"" (about the town's merry-go-round), would be perfect for reading aloud -- and this book could appeal to young adults. The more personal and serious tales here are the most involving: ""Fanny"" is an Austrian friend of the family who arrives every summer and thrills the dreamy four-year-old Klein by talking to her of fear, love, and the universe; in ""Packages Home"" a visit from her German aunt drives home the urgent need for the care packages her mother has been sending back to Germany. The cutely named ""Negotiating the Narrows"" details her experiences of prejudice on the island, including being called a Nazi by schoolmates and having a family friend tell her not to hang around with a black boy. In a book of generally light themes, such stabs at political commentary stand out. But Klein's rationalization that she has learned ""to keep a perspective on the community as a whole, which I adore, without forgetting its imperfections"" rings false; integrating this material into the many cheery tales of making mischief with a childhood friend -- spotting nightcrawlers reproducing, shooting starlings with a BB gun and then cooking them for lunch, and so forth -- might have given them more punch. Apparently, a ruby window works much like rose-colored glasses.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: August House