From School Library Journal
Gr 5-8–Sixth-grader Mary Clare is the oldest girl in a large Catholic family. The year is 1967, and with only her father working, her family is struggling financially. She fears that her mother, who is expecting yet another child, is losing her faith. On top of all this, her beloved older brother receives his draft notice for the Vietnam War. Wanting to help her family with all of their problems, Mary Clare decides to become a saint. She makes bargains with God in exchange for His help, but worries she might not be saint material. (She passes notes in class.) The story is by turns heartbreaking and hilarious. Unfortunately, the very thing that makes it unique may limit its audience. The novel is so steeped in Roman Catholicism that it's best appreciated by those who have had a parochial-school education or are familiar with the history of the faith, especially the changes brought by Vatican II and what they meant for practicing Catholics. Glimpses into the Civil Rights and Women's Liberation Movements of the 1960s and the role religion played in both heighten the sense of time and place.–Kelly Roth, Bartow County Public Library, Cartersville, GAα(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
In her debut novel, Fixmer takes a look back at the roiling 1960s, when everything was in flux, even the traditions of the Catholic Church. Mary Clare is one of nine children (another’s on the way), and it seems one strategy for bringing order into her life is to become a saint. Well, first a nun and then a saint. So Mary Clare resolves to forgo sin, but she soon learns that black and white can unexpectedly turn into gray. When it comes to matters of family, friendship, religion, even war and race relations, the path is not always clear. Fixmer hits every hot-button topic of the day, including Mary Clare’s mother’s burgeoning feminism. Fewer issues more fully explored might have been a wiser editorial choice, but there’s no doubt this gives readers a strong sense of what was happening during this turbulent time. Smartly delineated in part through letters to a nun, Mary Clare’s story is wonderfully realized, and readers will find themselves pulling hard for her as she tries to do her best. Grades 5-7. --Ilene Cooper