The Boston Girl
Ms. Hen chose to read this book because she had wanted to read a book by this author for a while. She happened to be walking by the West End Branch of the Boston Public Library, and this book popped into her head, so she went in, and by chance it was in there, on the shelf, waiting for her to check it out.
Ms. Hen likes the title of this novel because she also considers herself a Boston Girl. There are different incarnations of Boston girls, and she thinks the young woman in this novel is a smart, savvy, industrious person, and Ms. Hen thinks that if this is what it means to be a Boston Girl, she thinks it’s a positive aspiration.
Ms. Hen thinks that this novel reminds her of A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN in the way that it’s about a young woman trying to make her way in the world during the beginning of the twentieth century, but this novel takes place in Boston, and the character is Jewish. The same pathos is there, the poverty, the lack of education, hardship, and the desire for a better life.
This novel makes Ms. Hen think of her own family’s history. Her family lived in Boston at the time the novel took place, in the Charlestown neighborhood, and her grandmother was slightly younger than Addie Baum. Ms. Hen had an aunt who was exactly the same age as Addie, born in 1900, and Ms. Hen knew her when she was growing up. Ms. Hen can’t imagine her Aunt Mary having as much gumption as the woman in this novel, however. She doesn’t picture her aunt fighting for causes and having her friend listen in on phone conversations at the telephone company to find out where to apply for a job. But this is what Addie Baum does.
Addie is a young woman who lives with her parents and sister in the North End of Boston, where many immigrant families live from different countries: Italians, Irish and Jewish people all live adjacent to each other, and the young people are friends. Addie has several friends from different ethnicities, that she meets at a place called the Saturday club, where young women socialize. Addie has problems with her mother and father; they don’t understand her, and she is taken out of high school because her sister gets married and cannot work to support the family anymore. Addie misses going to school, but she works successfully as a secretary for her brother-in-law. She has several jobs, and dates men, and finally falls in love.
This is not a love story, nor a women’s novel. This is a novel about a woman who learns to get what she wants and to help others to get what they want. She has friends, and her friends take care of her, and she takes care of them. At first she doesn’t know what she wants from her life, but then she discovers it as she goes along. This is a novel about the journey of one woman’s life, and the character finding herself.
Ms. Hen was excited there are chickens in this novel. At Thanksgiving the family plans to have a chicken instead of a turkey. “ 'Trief meat in my house?’ Celia whispered, like she didn’t want God to know. She rubbed her hand up and down her cheeks ‘No. If it has to be, you can come her to eat, but chicken from the kosher butcher.’ ” The girls fight, but Celia wins and they have chicken for Thanksgiving.
Ms. Hen thinks this is a nice novel, but not too nice. The author doesn’t sugarcoat things, but tells things the way they are. Ms. Hen doesn’t like books that are sappy, but she thinks THE BOSTON GIRL has enough edge to keep her interested. Ms. Hen enjoyed Boston as a character in the novel; she knew a lot of the places described, which are still there. Ms. Hen likes being a Boston girl, or a Boston hen, and she admires Addie Baum for living a life with purpose.