In a very bad week for memoirs, I picked up Mary Ann Tirone Smith's haunting, Girls of Tender Age. I, too, grew up in Hartford in the fifties and sixies, very close to her neighborhood. Our paths surely must have crossed at Hartford Public High School, in the same corner stores, parks, and churches, though we didn't know each other. Every page rings a bell, sometimes a mournfully when she grieves the loss of a murdered childhood friend; the deaths of so many much-loved relatives; the death of her very own childhood as the sister of an autistic brother. But many joys ring out in her book--the local Italian club; her uncle's one-night only bagna cauda sending its garlicky, and forbidden perfumes through her house; an elevator her mechanically-minded brother hijacked in Fox's Department Store; the way Lincoln Dairy ice cream could make you forget the hurts of the day. Mary Ann captures that time when adults assumed we knew more about certain things than we did and less about what we weren't supposed to know--their secrets.
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