All her life, Carrie Manning had to live according to her mother’s rules. She spent her holidays handing out fresh, hot food to the homeless, she had to give away all her toys when she was around five years old, and she was never allowed to meet her grandmother, Lu Lawson.
Unlike most children, Carrie had to go to a performer’s library to look up her grandmother. She was able to find out that Lu Lawson was one of the biggest stars on Broadway. Carrie also found out that her father, Bobby Manning, was the most popular musical writer and composer of his time. In fact, he had written musicals for her grandmother to star in. Dying to see a musical, Carrie tried to sneak in without a ticket. Her mother had forbidden her to even catch a glimpse of the glitzy world. She was always told that musicals were worthless, unlike the good they were doing when they helped those less fortunate.
But when Carrie’s mother passes away, Carrie feels the need to find out who her mother really was, why she and Lu stopped talking, and why her mother refused to let her even see a musical. What Carrie uncovers leaves her floored. Her family’s history goes all the way back to her great grandmother who came to America as a young bride from Italy. It traces the relationship among her great grandmother, her grandmother, and her mother. In uncovering her family’s past, Carrie finds out more about herself and her family than she had ever bargained for.
The Female Characters
In the beginning, the reader sees the story from Carrie’s perspective, but as Carrie starts to hear more about the women in her family, the perspective shifts and you see the tale as it happened to Carrie’s mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. Each character is unique, real, and endearing. Even Rose, Carrie’s mother, who seems quite unforgiving and hard at first, becomes a character you eventually understand and care about.
Shaffer does not stereotype her women, and she makes them all strong, engaging characters. Plus, even if they had their regrets and felt they had to pay “penance” for their mistakes, they all found their own redemption in the end.
The Wonderful World of Broadway
A former stage and TV actress, Shaffer was able to capture the glamour as well as the reality of Broadway: The way Lu was able to make it in show business through sacrifices and a very strict regimen that hurt herself and her family; the single mindedness of Bobby Manning when he was working and the way he tortured his body in order to milk his creativity and meet his deadlines; the way Rose Manning was able to keep up appearances just to hold on to what she felt she needed despite how she was slowly crumbling inside.
At the same time, Shaffer was able to portray how the women in Carrie’s family had a great need to shine. Makes you realize that no matter how much you consider yourself an individual, who you are is still made up of your history and your family.
Though given focus in the beginning and the end, Carrie’s story felt drab in comparison to her great grandmother’s, grandmother’s and mother’s. However, it is clear in the novel that Carrie is still finding herself and she needs the knowledge of her family history in order to fully actualize who she really is. And in the end, she is able to do just that. You may wish that the star quality in her blood could have surfaced a little bit when she was younger, however, this could easily be explained away by the way her mother tried to extinguish every little hint of Broadway in her daughter’s life. All in all, this book is not just enjoyable and entertaining, it is heartwarming and page-turning. In fact, it would make an awesome mini-series!
Bookshelf Meter: 5 stars
Available at Fully Booked.
1 star – Don’t even bother.
2 stars – Since there’s nothing else to read…
3 stars – Worth a borrowing from a friend, but not buying your own
4 stars – Deserves a spot on your nightstand.
5 stars – Grab this book now and forget the one you’re reading!