Girls of Tender Age: A Memoir

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Simon and Schuster, Feb 24, 2006 - Biography & Autobiography - 304 pages
10 Reviews
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In Girls of Tender Age, Mary-Ann Tirone Smith fully articulates with great humor and tenderness the wild jubilance of an extended French-Italian family struggling to survive in a post-World War II housing project in Hartford, Connecticut. Smith seamlessly combines a memoir whose intimacy matches that of Angela's Ashes with the tale of a community plagued by a malevolent predator that holds the emotional and cultural resonance of The Lovely Bones.

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.

Girls of Tender Age is one of those books that will forever change its readers because of its beauty and power and remarkable wit.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - bnbookgirl - LibraryThing

This is such a great memoir/true crime story. The author covers coming-of-age, autism, pedophilia, murder and social and legal issues of the 1950's. I was intrigued by the telling of the two stories ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - indygo88 - LibraryThing

This was a well-written story in a somewhat unique format -- part memoir, part true crime -- but it worked. The author tells of her years as a young girl growing up in Connecticut in the 1950's with a ... Read full review

Contents

Section 1
3
Section 2
11
Section 3
15
Section 4
16
Section 5
23
Section 6
24
Section 7
26
Section 8
28
Section 13
51
Section 14
52
Section 15
61
Section 16
71
Section 17
84
Section 18
92
Section 19
104
Section 20
243

Section 9
30
Section 10
32
Section 11
34
Section 12
45
Section 21
273
Section 22
278
Copyright

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About the author (2006)

Mary-Ann Tirone Smith is the author of eight novels. She has lived all her life in Connecticut, except for two years when she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon.

Bibliographic information