Whistling in the Dark
By: Lesley Kagen
Published by Penguin Books
Troo and Sally, Sally and Troo, the sisters were two peas in a pod but in the summer of ‘59 life wasn’t as innocent as it appeared. Immediately before his death, for which Sally feels responsible, she promises her dying father that she will always look after her sister Troo. That is a tall order for any child and proves especially difficult for a highly imaginative ten-year-old once a murderer and molester begins to stalk the town. After the loss of her husband, mother decides the only way to put food on the table is to marry Hall for whom she has no real feelings. He causes more problems than he is worth, as he basically abandons the girls for the bottle.
After their mother is taken to the hospital, teenage sister Nell is put in charge of the girls, but she is too busy with her boyfriend and wedding plans to notice what the girls are up to. Left to roam the neighborhood unsupervised, everyday brings a new adventure for the girls. Sally kicks into protective mode like never before when someone seems to be following the pair, and grownups refuse to listen to her theories about the murders. As the summer progresses Sally makes some startling discoveries about her own identity. The book is full of love and loss, death and devotion, truth and togetherness.
I was immediately drawn to this book by the cover. That could be my sister and I pictured on the front. This book transported me back to my childhood and a time when my imagination ran wild. If you grew up with a sister and learned together to laugh, love and look out for each other, you will relate to this tale. The O’Malley neighborhood is full of interesting characters that add flavor to the book. The characters are fresh and believable. The only issue I had with the book was that Sally seemed just a little too wise for her years and it seemed a little too much to believe that the girls really had no one to answer to for an entire summer at the ages of nine and ten. Nevertheless, I fell in love with Sally and Troo, as they applied their little girl thoughts to grown up situations. Their imaginations carried them away, as I bet yours did in your childhood.
This is the first novel of Lesley Kagen. I found it to be well written with excellent descriptions of the time period. There were characters to love and a few to hate. As I was reading this book, memories of my childhood came flooding back. Days after finishing the book, I found myself wondering about Sally and Troo. The book takes a few unexpected turns and I think you will get more than you bargain for when you read it.
I recommend this book. You will especially enjoy it if you want to escape for a few hours to a simpler time; a time of catching fireflies in jars on a summer night, of eating drippy popsicles on a sunny day and of sharing secrets with a sister. Just remember, nothing is ever as simple as it seems.
Reviewed by Pearl