A coming of age music-themed story which is quite delightful. The focus is on character development rather than plot. I kept waiting for something to happen before realising it’s not that kind of story.
Narrated by 14-year old Mary Jane, the story is set in Baltimore, 1975. Mary Jane is from a rather prim and proper, patriotic, churchgoing family. She’s hired as a ‘summer nanny’ to a neighbouring family, Dr and Mrs Cone and their daughter Izzy. It turns out that a very famous couple, the rock star Jimmy and movie star Sheba, are staying there while Dr Cone helps Jimmy recover from heroin addiction. Mary Jane is thrilled to discover a very different way of life than she’s used to – where people burst into song, talk through their feelings, don’t wear underclothes, shop on the wrong side of town – but she has to keep it a secret from her parents. Ironically the training her mother has given her in housekeeping is one of the skills her new friends love about Mary Jane.
I liked the thread of improvisation, harmony and rhythm that runs through the book. The social observation is very well done and with warm humour too. There is a nostalgic, summer haze to the story which is appealing. Although there are some serious themes, they are seen from a young teenager’s perspective and don’t dominate the story. I wasn’t so keen on the many descriptions of cooking and housework. I would have liked more rock ‘n’ roll, but again it’s not that kind of book. It’s about love, healing and discovery.
First published in 2021.
7 thoughts on “Review of ‘Mary Jane’ by Jessica Anya Blau”
Super review! I’m the same with character-driven stories, takes me a few chapters to grasp that it’s not action packed, but more a lifestyle based story. Last one like that for me was Our Wives Under the Sea.
Thank you! 🙂 I’m not usually a fan of character-driven stories, it depends if the writing style is my cup of tea. I did sample Our Wives Under the Sea but the style didn’t hook me.
I loved how happy I felt while I read Mary Jane, hope you came out of it with the same feeling of joy.
It is definitely a happy book, I think partly due to the nostalgic summer haze 🙂
Yes, summer and happy go together well 🙂
Yes, delightful is what I thought of that one. Charming. Glad it didn’t go down a darker road I thought it might.
Yes, you’re right – I did wonder what was going to happen and I’m glad the story turned out how it did.