Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Virgins, by Caryl Rivers

Diversion Books, May 2012

This is the re-release of a delightful mid-80s novel of mid-50s Catholic school girls coming of age.

Peggy Morrison, her friends and classmates Con and Molly, seniors at Immaculate Heart of Mary High school, and her neighbor and boyfriend, Sean McCaffrey, a senior at Sacred Heart of Jesus High School, struggle with the challenges of growing up and entering adulthood. Peggy and Con dream of being writers and journalists and living a glamorous life in New York City. Sean plans to be a priest, and will be entering the seminary after graduation.

It's an era in which there is no acknowledged place for women, and especially girls, with serious ideas. Individuality and creativity are not encouraged. If the stern, demanding Sister who is principal of Immaculate Heart is a little more sympathetic than she outwardly seems, the girls certainly don't notice. The girls and Sean struggle to explore their ideas and dreams without getting caught breaking the rules, and they all struggle with issues in their families. Con is living with a painful situation that leaves her unable to respect either parent. Sean's father, a professor at St. Anselm's College, is pompous, hard to reach, and a brave if somewhat clownish crusader against Smut. Peggy's father dies, suddenly, unexpectedly, leaving Peggy without her strongest support, and her mother to take over the family business and keep them afloat financially.

I can't really say much about the plot, because this book is about its characters, more so than what happens to them. The friends work their way through the challenges of sex, obedience, maturity, and taking responsibility. It's a world that had changed by the time I was growing up in  the sixties, and has changed again, and yet again, since then. It's funny, it's moving, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the author.