BookPage Fiction Top Pick, December 2014
Reading Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl is a bit like listening to an older relative tell stories at Thanksgiving—and that’s a good thing. Because Addie Baum, the book’s 85-year-old narrator (who is telling her tales to her college-age granddaughter throughout the book), is one entertaining older relative.
The story Addie weaves is of her own life, which began in Boston in 1900. She grew up as the whip-smart daughter of Polish Jewish immigrants, who struggle to understand their free-spirited child, the only one of their three daughters born in the U.S. But despite being routinely smothered at home, she ably explores life on her own terms.
In 1915, the bookish Addie is asked to recite “Paul Revere’s Ride” at the Saturday Club, a group of young women from many different religious and ethnic backgrounds. This is the start of her intellectual, artistic and feminist journey. From there, we follow Addie as she forms friendships, endures family tragedies, explores career options and social activism and eventually finds romance, all as key world events unfold in the background. While, refreshingly, men are far from her chief focus, one of the more touching sections of the book centers on her short-lived and disastrous relationship with a soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Diamant, best known for her best-selling book-club favorite The Red Tent, does a fine job of instantly endearing Addie to the reader. Fiercely independent, frequently awkward and quite witty, Addie is simply fun to hang out with, in a literary sense. Her journey through the 20th century is one readers will relish.