This re-issue of a 1968 book was featured as part of Librarian Nancy Pearl’s series, “A Book Crush Rediscovery.” I’m so glad she added it; I somehow missed it the first time around.
Shannon Kathleen Lightley, age 20, narrates this story of what happened in the summer when she was 18, at loose ends, and helping her Uncle Frosty, a lawyer, with some investigative work in the Portland, Oregon area. Shannon not only didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life; she didn’t even know who she really was. She felt like one sort of person when with her famous actress mother and her husband, and another when she was with her famous journalist father and his wife. She was yet another when living with her Aunt Doris and Uncle Syd. They all had different expectations for her, and it was hard to know what she herself wanted. She didn’t feel there was anywhere she quite belonged.
As part of her “undercover” work for Uncle Frosty, Shannon was to find out why a recently deceased woman left all her money to her neighbors instead of to her daughter, who was now contesting the will. She decided to take on a different look and persona for the job, and transformed herself into a gum-smacking working-class girl with heavy eye makeup and a beehive hairdo named Georgetta. In this guise, she got a room in the boarding house where most of the the putative legatees lived, and got to know each of these people and what they meant to the late Mrs. Dunningham, whose room she now occupied.
She took a job as a waitress at the diner across the street, The Rainbow, and was given a grass-green uniform to wear; thus she quickly acquired the moniker “Greensleeves.” She also attracted the attention of a local college boy who was one of those named in the will: George Maynard Sherrill, called Sherry by everyone.
Before long, Shannon went from being convinced that the neighbors were in some sort of conspiracy to rip off the benighted Mrs. Dunningham, to a strong sympathy with them and an understanding of why Mrs. Dunningham made her peculiar bequests. But complications arose: Sherry became quite interested in her, or in Georgetta, at any rate, and then there was another man, Dave, at the boarding house with whom she had some kind of chemistry. But who did Shannon want? And what would happen to their interest in her if they knew she was Shannon and not Georgetta?
Evaluation: This is a lovely story about identity; what makes us into the people we are; and how free we can ever be to change who we are and what we want to become. It seems like a simple little coming of age story, but it is really so much more, and aspects of it stay with you long after reading it, which is why, I imagine, it is a natural for a “book crush rediscovery.”
Originally published in 1968 and republished by Skyscape in 2015