Let­ters in the Attic

Bon­nie Shimko
  • Review
By – March 2, 2012
Bon­nie Shimko’s debut nov­el, Let­ters in the Attic, takes place in the 1960’s and begins when twelve-year-old Lizzie McMann’s sleaze­bag father, Man­ny, announces that he would like a divorce. She and her unsta­ble moth­er, Veron­i­ca, leave Ari­zona for upstate New York to live with her grand­par­ents. In New York, Lizzie finds let­ters that indi­cate that Man­ny was not her father. But the core of the sto­ry comes from the new rela­tion­ships of both moth­er and daugh­ter. Veron­i­ca begins to date Mr. Stephens, a nice man. Lizzie meets Eva Singer, a Jew­ish girl, who is dyslex­ic, smokes, and looks like Natal­ie Wood. Lizzie is imme­di­ate­ly attract­ed to Eva. With humor and ten­der­ness, the nov­el por­trays Lizzie’s con­fu­sion and pain about her bud­ding sex­u­al­i­ty as well as her mother’s often errat­ic behav­ior. Judaism does not seri­ous­ly impact the dra­mat­ic turns of this nov­el. Although Eva is Jew­ish, reli­gion and spir­i­tu­al­i­ty are not cen­tral to the novel’s themes. The novel’s strength is its pro­tag­o­nist. Lizzie is charm­ing and inquis­i­tive. She some­times seems more mature and obser­vant than the usu­al twelve year old and some­times the abun­dant descrip­tions slow down the pace of the nar­ra­tive. In gen­er­al, how­ev­er, the nov­el is emo­tion­al­ly dri­ven and offers enough sur­pris­es to keep the read­er inter­est­ed. Ages 12 and up.
Sarah Aron­son holds an MFA in Writ­ing for Chil­dren and Young Adults from Ver­mont Col­lege. She is a full time writer and has recent­ly pub­lished her first nov­el, Head Case (Roar­ing Brook) for young adults. Sara blogs every Thurs­day for the Lilith blog.

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