Smith's Hartford neighborhood is small-town America, where everyone's door is unlocked and the school, church, library, drugstore, 5 & 10, grocery, and tavern are all within walking distance. Her family is peopled with memorable characters: her possibly psychic mother who's always on the verge of a nervous breakdown, her adoring father who makes sure she has something to eat in the morning beyond her usual gulp of Hershey's syrup, her grandfather who teaches her to bash in the heads of the eels they catch on Long Island Sound, Uncle Guido who makes the annual bagna cauda, and the numerous aunts and cousins who parade through her life with love and food and endless stories of the old days. And then there's her brother, Tyler.
Smith's household was "different". Little Mary-Ann couldn't have friends over because her older brother, Tyler, an autistic before anyone knew what that meant, was unable to bear noise of any kind. To him, the sound of crying, laughing, phones ringing, or toilets flushing was "a cloud of barbed needles" flying into his face. Subject to such an assault, he would substitute that pain with another: he'd try to chew his arm off. Tyler was Mary-Ann's real-life Boo Radley, albeit one whose bookshelves sagged under the weight of the World War II books he collected and read obsessively.
Hanging over this rough-and-tumble American childhood is the sinister shadow of an approaching serial killer. The menacing Bob Malm lurks throughout this joyous and chaotic family portrait, and the havoc he unleashes when the paths of innocence and evil cross one early December evening in 1953 forever alters the landscape of Smith's childhood.
"Larger than the sum of its parts, this book illuminates a social class as it recounts a tangled story of a family and a crime." (Publishers Weekly) "The engrossing text makes clear that evil can never be charted accurately enough." (Booklist)
I first listened to this book a few years ago, and it stayed with me , coming back to me whenever I saw or read or listened to a piece with similar themes. I just finished (the loving and hilarious and highly recommended) Tara Clancy's The Clancy's of Queens, and ran right back to Mary-Ann for another listen.
I just love Audible. Such wonders, sitting right on my phone, available to me instantly! Life is good!
I gave the book another chance and you should too.
I found it more enjoyable than a ever thought. If you enjoy justice please give it a listen.
3 of 7 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up Girls of Tender Age in three words, what would they be?
I don't think I can.
What did you like best about this story?
I like that it's true. And although it was about a murder, there were many other layers.
Would you listen to another book narrated by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith?
0 of 1 people found this review helpful