________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 9 . . . . January 4, 2002

cover Finding My Own Way.

Peggy Dymond Leavey.
Toronto, ON: Napoleon, 2001.
173 pp., pbk., $8.95.
ISBN 0-92914-183-0.

Subject Heading:
Sexual harassment-Juvenile fiction.
Journalism-Juvenile fiction.
Life skills-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 7-10 / Age 12-15.

Review by Mary Thomas.

*** /4


The bus ride back to my home seemed to take forever. I had forgotten there were so many stops between Toronto and Pinkney Corners. To pass the time, I studied the other passengers as they disembarked, one by one along the way, creating lives for them in my head. I pictured a family of clamouring youngsters waiting for the tired-looking woman in the print dress, who carried all the brown shopping bags. And a raven-haired sweetheart for the handsome man with the suit jacket hanging on his thumb over his shoulder. His shirtsleeves rolled up over his forearms, he swung jauntily down off the bus. Then all I could see was the top of his head as we pulled away again.

I climbed down at our corner, not wanting to walk all the way back from the cigar store which acted as the bus terminal in town. It was a warm late afternoon at the end of June. The trees and bushes along the roadside were lush with summer. I felt exhilarated, light as air. I didn't even feel the weight of the suitcase. "I'm home," I wanted to tell every leaf and branch, every creature I came upon---the doves who flew, startled, from the dust, the turtle who dawdled across my path, his tail leaving a shallow trail between the prints of his claws, as he headed for the riverbank.

Seventeen-year-old Libby Eaton had lived all her life in Pinkney Corners until last fall when her mother died and she had to go and live with an aunt in Toronto. After spending the school year there, however, all she wants is to move back "home" to the Corners, to live again in her own house, reclaim her dog from the neighbours, get a job and do her own thing. Aunt Irene is persuaded only after much talk (and Libby's doing well enough at school to be exempted from her exams) and the summer stretches ahead, hers to experience and enjoy.

     Which she does. The events of the summer are not earth-shattering. She settles in, gets a job at the five-and-dime store, and avoids the unwanted attentions of the assistant manager. She then gets fired after writing an article for the local newspaper about being harassed. She finds she still has a crush on the brother of her best friend and discovers a bit of family history. She reestablishes a family connection with a Russian emigre, and develops an interest in history in general and Russian history in particular. Her house burns down. By the end of the summer, she has found where her talents and priorities lie, and she is ready to move ahead in life, rather than continuing in her attempt to turn the clock back.

     As a coming-of-age story this is satisfying. Libby is an interesting but basically unformed character at the beginning of the novel, and, by the end, she has achieved an ambition and firmness of purpose that is both believable and acceptable. It is interesting that, while Libby observed a man trying to take advantage of her mother when she was young and didn't understand what was going on, she, herself, was the object of exactly the same sort of unsolicited attention, and behaved in a very similar manner.

     This is historical fiction of two times. Libby lives in the 1950s, she remembers the '40s and, at least for me, some of this is not history, but nostalgia! Inflation is given real meaning when Libby buys basic groceries for $8---and gets a job paying forty-three cents an hour! The seats on Toronto street-cars are stuffed with straw. The editor of the local newspaper is also its advertising agent, its copy writer and its proof reader. Male chauvinism may be disliked and resented, but it is accepted as the way things are.

     This is history? This is history! It's just recent history, and well worth reading about.

Mary Thomas works in two elementary school libraries in Winnipeg, MB, and had her first summer jobs in the 1950s.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364