In the Neighborhood of True has such a pretty pink cover, and I think that might have been one of the things that drew me to it initially. I’m not sure why, but I think the pretty writing, the flowers, and the overall simplistic design of it just made me fall in love with it instantly.
What I was most excited about for this book is that it was going to tell an important story from the point of view of a teenage girl during the 1950’s, when speaking out for what you believed in was still shied upon thanks to previous events and the judgements made by others. This marvelous historical novel did just that, offering a brilliant insight into a teenage girl’s point of view as she tries to conceal her true identity from her peers in order to keep her friends and make a life for herself.
“I thought about feeling a part of something, instead of apart from everything, a part of something that went deeper than the awesomeness of a brown-around-the-edges blossom.”
Ruth and her mother and younger sister have arrived to live with Ruth’s mother’s parents due to the sudden death of her father. Going from New York to a place that is so incredibly different is hard for Ruth and her family, but together they are determined to make the best of it.
While Ruth’s mother is adamant that they try and stay out of the spotlight because of their religion (they’re Jewish), Ruth wants it all – she wants to put on the fancy dresses and socialize with her peers, and maybe, just maybe, win the Magnolia Queen crown.
“‘We’re sometimes fooled into thinking hatred doesn’t happen here because the magnolias are in bloom. But hatred cannot be hidden.'”
However, things don’t always work out as planned. As time goes by, it becomes harder and harder for Ruth to conceal her religion.
When something happens and there is an incident that destroys the temple her mother and she attend, Ruth realizes that the people who harbor hatred within can surprise you, even when you least expect it.
In the Neighborhood of True was a good, inspiring story about overcoming hatred and learning how to accept yourself. I think it’s the kind of book that everyone should read, because of the incredibly important message that lies within its pages.
While In the Neighborhood of True was great in terms of plot and message, I do have to admit that I found the pacing just a tiny bit slow, and the bit build up at the end kind of left me feeling a bit underwhelmed. That being said, I think that the general overall plot and how well Ruth’s character is written more or less overshadows that, and makes it for quite the entertaining read.
I don’t read nearly as much historical fiction as I would like to, and I’m not sure why. I definitely don’t read as much historical fiction set in this time period as I would like, and when it comes to books that have a main focus on any kind of religion, I find myself shying away from them for whatever reason. However, I really am glad that I picked this one up.
Ruth’s character was well written and allowed us a glimpse inside the mind of a teen in the 1950s who wanted friends and popularity, but didn’t want to have to sacrifice that due to how people would feel when they found out about her religious beliefs. She felt like such a real character that I feel many could relate to.
I also liked Ruth’s mother’s character. At first I didn’t; it seemed as though she wasn’t being very supportive of anything that Ruth wanted for herself. But as time wears on and the story continues, it’s very obvious what Ruth’s mother was doing: she was trying to shield her from the hatred that she might encounter if anyone found out that she was Jewish. She was trying to steer Ruth away from those who might cause her the most pain if they found out the truth about her. She was protecting her.
In the Neighborhood of True is one of those books that I read through pretty fast because the overall plot of the book and the characters were both nicely done. I do wish things had been a bit more climactic than they were. I also kind of like a faster paced book than this, but that is a personal preference and no way should influence your opinion on the book – if you like a slower paced novel, I feel that this would really be right up your alley.
I’m glad I had the chance to read this one. It was thoroughly researched and the author clearly put a lot of time into her work, which really paid off, and it’s obvious. Not only would this make a great summer read, it’s the perfect read for anytime.
Susan Kaplan Carlton, a longtime magazine writer, currently teaches writing at Boston University. She lived for a time with her family in Atlanta, where her daughters learned the fine points of etiquette from a little pink book and learned the power of social justice from their synagogue. Carlton’s writing has appeared in Self, Elle, Mademoiselle, Seventeen, Parents, and elsewhere. She is the author of the young adult novels Love & Haight, which was named a Best Book for Young Adults by YALSA and a Best Book by the Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street Books, and Lobsterland.
Prize: Win (1) of (2) copies of IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF TRUE by Susan Kaplan Carlton (US Only)
Starts: 3rd April 2019
Ends: 16th April 2019
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