Friday, January 30, 2009

Little Audrey by Ruth White

I have a new author to read - Ruth White. Her latest book, Little Audrey, is an autobiographical novel, except she writes as though she is her older sister Audrey and not herself. White says the events are totally true, but she chose to call her work fiction because she does not truly know her late sister's thoughts.

The setting is pretty bleak. It is 1948. Audrey, who is recovering from scarlet fever, is called "the skeleton girl" by her arch enemies, two school boys who enjoy tormenting her. Her father works in the coal mines of southwestern Virginia and is mostly paid in scrips that can be used at the company store. Her three younger sisters greatly annoy her. Her mother is struggling to cope with the death of an infant and with the irresponsibility of an alcoholic husband. There are weeks that they run out of food before pay day.

Luckily, Audrey has friends, like Virgil, with his endless supply of jokes about monkeys. Also, a teacher, neighbors, and her mother do much to help, but still she struggles. I suspect many readers will see a bit of themselves in the girl who so much wants a better life than she has. I do.

I enjoyed every minute that I read Little Audrey. I might read it again.

White, Ruth. Little Audrey. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008. ISBN 9780374345808

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