Alice McDermott’s “Child of My Heart” was the Central Library’s Brown Baggers BookGroup choice for February. The discussion was, as usual, very lively. The Brown Baggers have been talking books since September 2008 and “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen. It has been a fun ride! The group has some very steady members, and we add one or two newbies every month. As a result, the members appear very comfortable as they put forth their ideas and opinions.
This month’s discussion surrounded the main character of “Child of My Heart,” Theresa, who enchanted and surprised us as she made her own fairytale life during her 15th summer. She was an able babysitter who won over children and animals alike. She also cast a spell on every man she met throughout the book and in her tony neighborhood, New York’s Hamptons. Her parents were almost non entities in her life and in the book. They worked full time and left Theresa on her own as she traversed the world they chose for her – again in the Hamptons – so that she could meet a wealthy man eventually. The idyllic life that she creates evokes a summer feeling, but threats to this world creep in on us.
The author created a wonderful character menagerie in this relatively brief story. The one that impressed me was Daisy, Theresa’s young cousin, who comes from the city and a family of too many children of very tired parents. She finds wonderful companionship among her cousin’s charges, animal and human. Daisy’s character is filled out with the foreshadowing that is throughout the book. Ron Charles of the “Christian Science Monitor” sees Daisy as “a sweet symbol of the waning child in Theresa’s own heart.”
Suzy Hansen in her “Solon Magazine” review writes of the problem that I have with the book. Hansen says: “Theresa pragmatically regards her beauty as a gift, or a not-so-secret weapon, something she can use to her advantage whether in comforting the fragile little girls and boys whom she baby-sits every summer, or in manipulating older men.” I found Theresa unbelievable as a 15 year old who recognizes this power to which Hansen alludes. But maybe you will disagree as many of the Brown Baggers did. Hey, that made for part of a very good discussion.
~ Reluctant Blogger