Monday, November 11, 2019

Book Review: Body Leaping Backward: Memoir of a Delinquent Girlhood



Happy Veterans Day, My Lovelies!  I hope your week has begun well.  I've been watching Veterans Day festivities on TV this morning, and I almost forgot to post this review.  Does your city host a Veterans Day Parade?  Birmingham hosts the oldest Veterans Day Parade in the nation.  I'm not going this year as I'm feeling a bit under the weather.

Recently I was asked to take part in a book tour for Maureen Stanton's memoir entitled Body Leaping Backward: Memoir of a Delinquent Girlhood.  This book depicts Stanton's coming of age in the early to mid 1970s, and it is also a bit of a social commentary on the time.  Stanton is slightly older than I am; she's Catholic and I'm Protestant; she grew-up in New England, and I grew-up in the deep South.  The only thing I really have in common with her is that we both come from broken homes.  Overall, it was hard to relate to her story, but I still found it very interesting to read about.


According to Goodreads:

For Maureen Stanton’s proper Catholic mother, the town’s maximum security prison was a way to keep her seven children in line (“If you don’t behave, I’ll put you in Walpole Prison!").  But as the 1970s brought upheaval to America, and the lines between good and bad blurred, Stanton’s once-solid family lost its way. A promising young girl with a smart mouth, Stanton turns watchful as her parents separate and her now-single mother descends into shoplifting, then grand larceny, anything to keep a toehold in the middle class for her children. No longer scared by threats of Walpole Prison, Stanton too slips into delinquency—vandalism, breaking and entering—all while nearly erasing herself through addiction to angel dust, a homemade form of PCP that swept through her hometown in the wake of Nixon’s “total war” on drugs.

Body Leaping Backward is the haunting and beautifully drawn story of a self-destructive girlhood, of a town and a nation overwhelmed in a time of change, and of how life-altering a glimpse of a world bigger than the one we come from can be.     


My Review:

The difficult thing for me in reading this book is trying not to be so judgmental about Maureen and her dysfunctional family.  However, I think that we as readers and humans should judge bad behavior, because how else can we possibly set standards for ourselves and our own children?

One commonality Maureen's family shares with almost 50% of other American families at the time is divorce.  There was a huge spike in divorce in the late sixties and early seventies, and Stanton does a great job explaining what was going on in society at the time that probably contributed to this phenomenon.  I actually enjoyed reading about her family and their life in small-town Massachusetts in the shadow of a famous prison (Stanton does share stories about famous prisoners throughout the book).  The antics on their cul-de-sac are very well-written, and I love Stanton's voice throughout the narrative.  However, after about the first third of the book, after her parents' separation when things truly spiral out of control for Maureen's mother and her children, her story becomes a little too repetitive.  Stanton describes doing drugs with her friends (mostly angel dust), doing really stupid things including breaking the law (larceny among others), saying disrespectful and stupid things, and never really getting caught or having consequences for said behavior.  Then the same scenario is repeated.  And repeated. And repeated.....it's almost as if Stanton is trying to comment on white privilege or something.

I would have liked to have read more about how Stanton gave up drugs, went to college, and turned her life around.  She just decided one day at school during her senior year that she wouldn't partake in the Angel Dust again because something scared her.  But when her father gives her $100 for voice lessons, she uses it to purchase cocaine.  There are many poor decisions in this book, book there were also many good choices in Stanton's life obviously as she has achieved many accolades in her field.  I would've enjoyed reading more about her strength, resilience, hard work, and achievements.

After all....her delinquency is only part of the story.

If you enjoy memoirs, reading about the culture of the 1970s, large families and family drama, and narratives written with a likable voice, then you should enjoy Body Leaping Backward.  I give this book 4 stars only because I want more about how Maureen Stanton overcomes her delinquency, but obviously that isn't this book's focus.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of Body Leaping Backward from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.


Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill




4 comments:

  1. Hi Ricki Jill, thanks for the honest and thorough review...the book sounds too depressing for me, but the insights from life in the 70s did bring back memories of those troubled times. I remember when I was growing up their was a girl in my neighborhood whose parents were divorced and I wasn't allowed to go to her house!
    Jenna

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  2. Hmmm, interesting, but I would also get bored with the repetitive 'bad' behavior. I'd be way more interested in how she transitioned, and if she's a mother, I bet her children would rather read that too.

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  3. This sounds really interesting, I'm always interested to read about different lives than mine. Thank you for being on this tour. Sara @ TLC Book Tours

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  4. Hi .. yep, I would agree, I would rather know how she turned her life around.
    As always appreciate your reviews.
    Carla

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