“A Ticket To Ride” by Paula McLain


McLain is one of my favorite authors.  She has a personal history (growing up in foster homes) as interesting and complex as the characters in her novels or the verses in her poems.  This novel takes place during a long, hot Illinois summer in 1973.   It is a coming of age story about an insecure, motherless 15-year-old girl who falls under the dangerous spell of her older and more worldly female cousin. Since I graduated high school in 1973 I have the advantage of going down memory lane.  I recognized all the music, expressions and fashion statements of the times.  Yet actually, any teen girl who ever spent a summer working on her tan, while listening to the radio, dreaming about boys and wondering how to become popular will be able to relate.  But this is more than a cliche episode that you can watch on “That 70’s Show”.  The girls are written heartbreakingly real displaying all the urgency that is a normal part of adolescence.  The type of teenage angst that adults realize can easily turn into self-destruction and tragedy.   A testament to the author’s talent is that this novel’s story-line is vastly different from her award winning historical fiction “The Paris Wife” (an account of Ernest Hemingway’s marriage to Hadley Richardson). This book is also beautifully written, but has more of a poetic-like feel to it with 1970’s song titles as the chapter titles.  I recommend buying a ticket for this ride.