So for the past few months, the magazines and blogs I read have been talking up this book, Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg. Well, it hit on all my favorites, NYC in the turn of the century, movie theaters, and strong female characters. So I ate a butterscotch and took my self down to the Abington Public Library. Luckily, this book didn’t seem to be a big draw for the local Abingtonians. I started it that night. While a bit slow at first, the book definitely picks up and is easy to read.
Based on the real life person, Mazie Phillips Gordon, who comes from a tumultuous childhood to lead a fascinating (and equally tumultuous) adult life). This book, takes the idea that for her 10th birthday, yound Mazie receives a diary in which to record all her deepest secrets.
After her older sister leaves the house b/c of her abusive, drunk father, Mazie is left with her younger sister and emotionally unavailable mother. Her sister eventually comes back and takes her two sisters with her to live in New York with her husband in midtown NYC. There, her sister and husband become defacto parents. Always a headstrong individual, Mazie chafes under the rules that she is required to follow and spends her time drinking and carrying on through the lowest parts of the city. One day, her brother-in-law suggests she start working at the family run theater where her sister has been working. The Venice theater becomes Mazie’s home away from home and slowly she finds meaning in her own life through the people who come to the theater.
The main story picks up after the depression hits. Mazie becomes a voice for those left on the street, forgotten in a time when there was such turmoil in the city and across the country. The story alternates between Mazie’s diary and conversations the imaginary documentarian has with people who knew her, people whose family members knew her, and the individual who found the diary to put the story in perspective.
The story takes turns that you don’t really expect, but it’s still a story of a woman trying to find herself and her meaning into adulthood. It seems like a short read, probably due to the layout of the diary entries, and I found that I finished it within a week. Overall, the book was a good quick read, but I didn’t love the whole thing. I wanted to learn more about some of the people she encountered, and maybe more about her early life with her family.
Oh well, not every book can be the best book of all time. But I would still recommend this.