Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Book Review: Eunice Gottlieb and the Unwhitewashed Truth About Life

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Eunice Gottlieb and the Unwhitewashed Truth About Life
Author: Tricia Springstubb

Author's web site: http://www.triciaspringstubb.com/
Date: 1987
Publisher: Delacorte
ISBN: 0-0385-29552-9
Length: 135 pages
Quote: “Why do we call our generous ideas illusions and the mean ones truth?”
Eunice, her best friend Joy, and her worst friend Reggie, are twelve years old. Eunice is the quiet, steady one. Joy is the intense, emotional one. Reggie is the lonely, needy, talkative one. The summer they try to upgrade the old lemonade stand game into a grown-up catering service, however, Eunice and Reggie start to feel emotional too (not that either can do “emotional” quite like Joy) and Joy starts to look like a teenager. Older men, even in grade nine, start to notice Joy. Eunice and Reggie have to settle for each other as being “what they have for friends” while Joy explores the novelty of hanging out with teenagers.
The story of their summer is a cheerful, fast-paced primer on keeping emotions from sabotaging friendships. It’s almost as swift and smooth as a TV sitcom, and could probably be made into one. All three girls have psychological learning experiences. So do their siblings and boy friends. Everybody’s a more mature adolescent (or preadolescent) by the end of the book.
What Springstubb accomplishes that’s unusual in this genre is a realistic look at Teen Romance. Sinking deeper into infatuation does not necessarily equal a happy ending for teenagers. Stepping, back, taking a more realistic look at a whole crowd of friends and feeling more realistic, more compassionate good will toward all of them, might be an even happier ending—especially when, bra or no bra, one is still twelve years old. Springstubb restores Joy’s equilibrium credibly enough that readers shouldn’t feel cheated out of the kiss-in-the-sunset ending that marks too many novels as mere romances. Joy is not ready to marry Robert, or kiss him, or go steady with him; she’s ready to integrate him into her crowd.
Do the satisfactory resolutions all round make the story seem contrived? Slightly. Nothing really unsatisfactory is likely to happen to these bland, rich, suburban kids, but my experience with whole crowds of kids is that their emotional dramas and happy endings don’t intermesh and coincide so neatly. But it’s fiction.
Would real twelve-year-olds, most of whom have become quite adept at being likable kids, prefer to read about aspects of teen and even adult life they don’t already understand? Sales figures for this witty, well narrated novel suggest that that may have been the case.

Is it possible for either seventh grade girls or adults to enjoy Eunice Gottlieb? Absolutely yes. It’s a short, light read, no strain on the brain, definitely good enough to get you through a few study periods, bus rides, or drying-off times at the beach. It’s not a profound examination of the human psyche like Huckleberry Finn, a tour of a different world like The Grapes of Wrath, an historical study of a nation disguised as a romance like Gone with the Wind, or even a chase to end all chases like Moby Dick, but then, it hardly aspires to be.

Eunice's friends and admirers (of whom I was one) may want to read the two other books about her: Eunice the Egg Salad Gottlieb and Which Way to the Nearest Wilderness. All three novels are available as Fair Trade Books, which means that when you send salolianigodagewi @ yahoo.com $5 for each book + $5 shipping, I send Springstubb or a charity of her choice $1 per book. (If you buy all three at one time, unless the post office has reduced the size of packages, you pay $20 and Springstubb or her charity gets $3. Shipping charges are per package, not per book.)