Anita Diamant’s novel,“The Boston Girl,” comes to us as the transcript of a tape-recorded monologue delivered by an 85-year-old woman .
The title refers to Addie Baum, who tells her story in response to a question posed by her 22-year-old granddaughter: How did she get to be the woman she is today? In that sense, the novel reads like a memoir, relating Addie’s coming of age in a series of episodes from her formative years.
Addie is sunny, alert and full of needlepointed wisdom. If this allegedly spontaneous memoir is any indication, she’s also the most well-organized 85-year-old woman in the world. Asked by her granddaughter to talk about how she got to be the person she is today, Addie takes us back to 1900, the year she was born. From there, she leads us through a series of episodes that have all the color and vibrancy of a plastic bouquet.“The Boston Girl’’ is about relationships, and the most poignant of all is that between Addie and her steely-hearted mother, Mameh. Old-fashioned and fearful of anything different, Mameh spits three times to ward off the “evil eye,’’ liberally hurls around nasty Yiddish phrases, and generally disapproves of everyone and everything, except perhaps her beloved middle daughter, Celia. Throughout her life, Addie pines for her mother’s love, respect, and acceptance, but her mother is furious with thoroughly modern Addie and sees all of Addie’s triumphs as the worst kind of affront. Addie’s Americanization threatens Mameh’s way of life. She believes that Addie is “a disappointment, a fool,” while Addie fumes: “Why does reading books give me a big head? Why don’t you ever ask what I’m reading?”