Sharenow, R. (2007). My mother the cheerleader: a novel. New York: Laura Geringer Books.
Cover of book shows narrator Louise standing in front of her mother
After reading some heavy, long books, I decided I wanted both lighter and shorter. Then, I remembered seeing one of my coworkers reading and talking about My mother the cheerleader at lunch. Well, at least it was shorter than most of the stuff I have been reading lately. This was not at all light or fluffy.
My mother the cheerleader is narrated by thirteen year old Louise Collins. She lives with her beautiful mother, Pauline, at her mother’s decrepit boarding house in 1960 New Orleans. Louise spends most of her time at the boarding house working with paid African American servant Charlotte because Pauline has pulled Louise out of school. Pauline does not want Louise to attend school with the African American Ruby Bridges, the first child to integrate William Frantz Elementary School. Pauline is a cheerleader – one of the many women who goes to the front of Frantz and heckles Ruby Bridges and protests desegregation. While Louise finds her mother to be a lovely visage, she thinks Pauline is a pain who throws back mint juleps and leaves the hard work for others.
When the dashing New Yorker Morgan Miller appears at Pauline’s bed and breakfast, Louise sees a way out of her life. Morgan attracts Pauline as well. He works in publishing and has returned to see a friend. Louise hopes that Morgan will take her with him. For once, someone seems to be listening to Louise. Yet, when Morgan, Pauline, and Louise all learn more about each other, the outcome is questionable.
After reading My mother the cheerleader, I was amazed that this was Sharenow’s first book. The detail and consideration of characters and subjects found within these covers appeared to have been written by a Pulitzer-ed veteran. The desciption of characters such as Pauline and Morgan were clearly brought into focus for the reader. The actual events of the book and the real people tastefully wove around Sharenow’s characters.
Yet, while I thought Louise stood out well, I was not sure that a preteen girl was the best narrator for this story. I am often divided when it comes to men writing in the voice of a female character and vice versa. Several times, I think there is something off about this. Still and all, Louise was well-illustrated by the author.
My only other complaint was that I wanted to know more about what happened to the characters. I hope there is a sort of sequal in the works. Hint, hint. . .
Four out of Five Pearls
Places: New Orleans, LA
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