Book Reviews

Body Leaping Backward: Memoir of A Delinquent Girlhood

• Hardcover: 240 pages
• Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (July 16, 2019)

The “mesmerizing . . . daring and important”* story of a risk-taking girlhood spent in a working-class prison town —Andre Dubus III

Synopsis: For Maureen Stanton’s proper Catholic mother, the town’s maximum security prison was a way to keep her seven children in line (“If you don’t behave, I’ll put you in Walpole Prison!”).  But as the 1970s brought upheaval to America, and the lines between good and bad blurred, Stanton’s once-solid family lost its way. A promising young girl with a smart mouth, Stanton turns watchful as her parents separate and her now-single mother descends into shoplifting, then grand larceny, anything to keep a toehold in the middle class for her children. No longer scared by threats of Walpole Prison, Stanton too slips into delinquency—vandalism, breaking and entering—all while nearly erasing herself through addiction to angel dust, a homemade form of PCP that swept through her hometown in the wake of Nixon’s “total war” on drugs.

Body Leaping Backward is the haunting and beautifully drawn story of a self-destructive girlhood, of a town and a nation overwhelmed in a time of change, and of how life-altering a glimpse of a world bigger than the one we come from can be.

Review: For a child of the 80’s, married to a child of the late 60’s-70’s, this was a raw and emotional read. If you didn’t live through this time period, you tend to get a Forest Gump, hippie, free love idea of this time period when in reality teens growing up in the 1970’s faced tremendous amounts of upheaval, drugs, absentee parents due to their own drug and alcohol use and/or divorce and remarriage, etc.

It’s quite honestly a miracle that a lot of them are here today and are functioning and successful members of society – like Maureen Stanton, the author of this book.

Her writing style is unique and while her memories are interspersed throughout the book, I never got an angsty teen vibe. This book read as a mature reflection of her child and teen years and is not one I will soon forget.

I also enjoyed the historical backdrop of Nixon’s presidency and war on drugs. I feel this is a time period many would like to forget and that I don’t read much about it in the books I read today.

Body Leaping Backward was a quick read and memorable – especially for those of us who know and love people who grew up during this time. It would make a great gift for your adult child of the 70’s and one I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone wanting to better understand this time period in our country’s history – I know it gave me a lot of insight into the world my husband grew in.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours, the publisher, and the author for a copy of this book in exchange for my review and promotion. All thoughts are my own.

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