ST. URSULA’S GIRLS AGAINST THE ATOMIC BOMB by Valerie Hurley

ST. URSULA’S GIRLS AGAINST THE ATOMIC BOMB

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KIRKUS REVIEW

First novel about the awkward coming of age of a Jewish girl at a Catholic school, and her growing friendship with a school counselor.

No, it’s not what you think: the middle-aged Al Klepatar is no Humbert Humbert preying on innocent schoolgirls—and 18-year-old Raine Rassaby is not exactly innocent, anyhow. The precocious daughter of an astronomer and a concert violinist, Raine comes from a Catholic family but decided at an early age to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps and convert to Judaism. This makes her something of an oddity at St. Ursula’s, the convent school on the West Side of Manhattan where Raine is now a senior. Even apart from her religious eccentricities Raine is a difficult student, obsessed with nuclear war and thoroughly uninterested in study, so the good sisters ask her to start seeing Mr. Klepatar for guidance. Al is charmed by Raine, but concerned at her apparent inability to find her niche in either the school or the world at large. As the story progresses Raine becomes increasingly active in politics, starting an antinuclear group at school with the help of a supportive nun and getting herself arrested at protest rallies. Her personal life is equally turbulent: Raine is in love with Pavel, a Slovakian immigrant who is studying to be a rabbi, but Pavel’s mother is horrified at the thought of her son marrying a Christian. (Raine’s mother is equally disturbed for the opposite reason.) When Raine finds herself pregnant and abandoned by Pavel, she turns to Al, who just happens to have been recently abandoned by his own wife (she left him for a younger man). Al lets Raine stay with him until the baby is born, and he tries to help her see how her life is going to change once she becomes a mother. She, in turn, manages to help Al see how his own life was changed by his marriage and its collapse.

A simple story, narrated in a direct and unpretentious style: a pleasant variation on a very common theme.

Pub Date: Nov. 21st, 2003
ISBN: 1-931561-55-9
Page count: 264pp
Publisher: MacAdam/Cage
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2003