Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Divorce Express

1982, first edition, from Delacorte
Paula Danziger
The Divorce Express
Original price $10.95, purchase price $3.95
OK condition hardcover

From roughly ages 10 to 15, I read a lot of Danziger, Norma Klein, and of course Judy Blume, thinking of them all as East Coast Jewish women I'd have liked to have as my mother.  (My own Jersey Jewish mom died when I was three.)  But I mostly got their books from the library, and the ones I own now (no Klein I think, but then she wrote less, it seemed) I bought as an adult, and in most if not all cases they're not the ones I grew up with.  So it feels odd to be reviewing this rather than The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, which I did actually own, until I read it to death, or even the Danziger novel with perhaps the best title, Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice? 

This is probably my third or fourth reading.  It goes fast, if not expressly.  It's set mostly in Woodstock, NY, where Danziger lived for several years.  She idealizes the town, and the aging hippies who live there, but if you can get past that, it's a good setting.  Fourteen-year-old protagonist Phoebe spends the rest of her time in her old home in New York City, where her mother and stepfather-to-be have more materialistic values.  Phoebe's old boyfriend and old best friend start dating in her absence, but she gets a new and better boyfriend, and a best friend whose mother starts dating Phoebe's dad.

This is definitely aimed at younger teens, not only because of Phoebe's age but because of the content.  I can't imagine divorce being a particularly controversial topic post-1960s.  (I used to own a 1920s book called Children of Divorce, where it was a great tragedy.  And by the time Express came out, we had a divorced president.)  There is mention of unmarried adults hypothetically having sex, but Phoebe doesn't do more than kiss, and there's no drug usage, other than cigarettes by a minor character.  Even Phoebe's hobby of anagrams seems aimed at a younger crowd, although it's actually what I liked best about the book.

Phoebe returns in It's an Aardvark-Eat-Turtle World, although that's from the perspective of best friend Rosie.  I remember liking it about equally, so we'll see when we get to 1985.

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