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History Lesson for Girls    by Aurelie Sheehan order for
History Lesson for Girls
by Aurelie Sheehan
Order:  USA  Can
Viking, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch

Everyone is a part of history: we all carry around our own personal histories that shape and define our futures, and we are all part of something larger than ourselves. In this moving, tender novel, the author explores the history of the 1970s, the history of a small Connecticut town, and the history of a friendship.

It is 1975, and Kate and Alison are eighth grade outsiders. Alison suffers from scoliosis and is forced to wear a back brace, which provides the children at school with endless fodder for teasing. Kate becomes an outsider simply by befriending Alison, who often wonders why Kate has chosen her for a friend. Neither has an idyllic childhood - the marriage of Alison's parents is teetering on the edge of stability, and Kate's household is downright dangerous. Her mother is mentally unstable, and her father's cruelty is often masked by his intellectual persona.

The story is told from the perspective of Alison as an adult looking back on her childhood, but there was more I wanted to know about the grown-up Alison and what effects her childhood, specifically her thirteenth year, had on her. The narrative flows nicely, and there are many poignant lines, such as Alison's perspective soon after her parents split up: 'I was still not used to my father sitting in his car in the driveway, rumbling away, only a slice of his body visible from the window. He seemed too much like a deliveryman at the wrong address or some kind of evangelical stranger with many a door slam to his name.'

Despite the ultimately serious subject matter, Aurelie Sheehan interjects light humor but with an undercurrent of tension and sadness about to spill through to the surface. The narrative flows nicely, and the author genuinely captures the pain of adolescence, of growing up too soon.

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