The Crazyladies of Pearl Street
Legendary writer Trevanian brings readers his most personal novel yet: a funny, deeply felt, often touching autobiographical novel destined to become a classic American coming-of-age story.The place is Albany, New York. The year is 1936. Six-year-old Jean-Luc LaPointe, his little sister, and their spirited but vulnerable young mother have been abandoned—again—by his father, a charmer and a con artist. With no money and no family willing to take them in, the LaPointes manage to create a fragile nest at 238 North Pearl Street. For the next eight years, through the Great Depression and Second World War, they live in the heart of the Irish slum, with its ward heelers, unemployment, and grinding poverty. As Jean-Luc discovers, it’s a neighborhood of “crazyladies”: Miss Cox, the feared and ridiculed teacher who ignites his imagination; Mrs. Kane, who runs a beauty parlor/fortune-telling salon in the back of her husband’s grocery store; Mrs. Meehan, the desperate, harried matriarch of a thuggish family across the street; lonely Mrs. McGivney, who spends every day tending to her catatonic husband, a veteran of the Great War; and Jean-Luc’s own unconventional, vivacious mother.Jean-Luc is a voracious reader who never stops dreaming of a way out of the slum. He gradually takes on responsibility for the family’s survival with a mix of bravery and resentment while his mom turns from spells of illness and depression to eager planning for the day when “our ship will come in.” It’s a heartfelt and unforgettable look back at one child’s life in the 1930s and ’40s, a story that will be remembered long after the last page is turned.My sister, my mother and I sat in a row on the front stoop of 238 North Pearl Street, feeling overwhelmed and diminished by the unfamiliar bustle of the big city. Beside the stoop was a stack of twine-bound cardboard boxes bulging with bedding, clothing and kitchen things. Around them were clustered our few scraps of furniture looking scuffed and shabby in the unforgiving glare of daylight. It was Saint Patrick’s Day, and the mid-March sun felt good, but chill winter air still lurked in the shadows. The year was 1936; I was six years old, my sister was three, my mother was twenty-seven, and we were beginning a new life.We had been sitting on that stoop long enough for the gritty brownstone to mottle the backs of my legs between my short pants and my knee-high stockings. My sister wore a starched, frilly dress that Mother had bought out of money meant to tide us over until we got on our feet because she wanted Anne-Marie to look pretty the first time her father saw her, but the dress had got crushed during the long drive with the three of us crammed into half of the front seat of my uncle’s rattletrap of a truck. And now we sat hip to hip on that step, Mother in the middle, my sister and I drawing comfort from contact with her, while she drew maternal strength and determination from contact with us. Anne-Marie was hungry and sleepy and close to tears. Taking her onto her lap, Mother looked anxiously up and down the street for my father whom she hadn’t seen for four years, not since the morning he went out to look for work and didn’t come back, leaving her with a toddler, a baby, and two dollars and some change in her purse. —from The Crazyladies of Pearl StreetLook for these Trevanian classics from Three Rivers Press: Shibumi, The Eiger Sanction, The Loo Sanction, The Summer of Katya, and The Main.From the Hardcover edition.