Sunday, June 3, 2012

In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard

A girl and her best friend grow up and grow apart

This novel is the story of narrator Jo (apparently that is her name) and her early teenage years in a quiet little town. Jo has a drunken failure for a father, a hardworking mother, and a mischievous best friend Flea (though the two of them are certainly not bad girls). Once boys, hesitantly, at the edges, enter the picture, the bond between the two girls gets frayed. Will the friendship survive? Nothing really much happens in this novel, which bothered me at first, and then didn’t. The girls rescue some kittens and they go to a wake. A lot of time is spent in angst over whether the cheerleaders like them or not. It's probably a triumph that such an unassuming book got published and at first I wondered if this was a young adult book.

The sometimes hilarious details reminded me of my seventies girlhood but the meandering story line also reminded me that my seventies girlhood was so dull I ran away to Hollywood. Does a novel require an imaginative architecture, that is, a plot? When you eschew a plot, you eschew plot missteps, but the stakes stay small. Or do they? Isn’t this novel about small town girlhood also about life itself? Nothing seems to happen in Zanesville, but then perhaps everything happens.

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