Elinor Golden has had trouble reading and writing ever since a golf ball hit her in the head as a child and left her with permanent minor brain damage. Otherwise quite intelligent and fully functional, she has stumbled through school unable to perform assigned tasks, unwilling to make the nature of her problem any more public than she has to, and often alone with it, since few teachers, even those who know the problem, know how to help her. Even her father, a doctor, is baffled.

It is 1943 and, as the U.S. enters the war, her attention is diverted to problems bigger than her own. She joins a volunteer corps that keeps watch for enemy planes approaching the New England coast. In the course of this purposeful work, she is paired on watch with a young teacher who finds a way to help her read by having her trace letters with her finger. Both her new work and her new reading strategy empower her, and help her cope with the crisis of her parents' separation and the departure of her lifelong friend, Jed, for Dartmouth.

She leaves school and joins a group of paid volunteers to do war work, discovering new areas of competency and satisfaction after years of feeling like a failure. At the same time her friend, Jed, discovers something new in her, and friendship turns to romance as personal hope blossoms in the midst of trouble and war.


This novel, like Corcoran's others, is a realistic, readable, engaging portrait of a young woman coming into her own and coping with obstacles a little out of the ordinary. Both Elinor's father and Jed's father are doctors, and their relative powerlessness to help her medically emphasizes that this is a story of healing, not of curing. She doesn't "solve" her problem, though there is some hope that she has found a way to cope with it more effectively.

But both in terms of brain damage, and of parents' conflict, and of a world at war, the story focuses on her learning to take responsibility for herself and her life, to find her strengths and use them, and to work around--and in some ways with--her handicap, to define her own purposes with clarity and self-respect. Some of the World War II allusions might be unfamiliar to young readers, but the characters, their reflections, and their relationships are quite accessible.



Place Published

New York



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