TITLE/AUTHOR: Mary Jane, Jessica Anya Blau
PUBLISHER: Custom House
YEAR PUBLISHED: 2021
GENRE: Fiction / Coming-of-Age
FORMAT: eGalley/ LENGTH: 320 pp
SETTING(s): Baltimore, MD suburb
ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY: A wonderful coming-of-age story that exposes a teenage girl to a lifestyle so very different from her own.
BRIEF REVIEW: It's the summer of 1975 when fourteen year old Mary Jane Dillard is hired as a nanny to care for Isabelle "Izzy" Cone, the five year old daughter of Dr. Richard Cone, a psychiatrist, and his stay at home wife Bonnie. The Cone's and Dillard's are neighbors but little do the ultra conservative Dillard parents know, other than the fact that Cones have a lovely house, at least on the outside, and Mr. Cone has a "respectable" job as a doctor, the two families have absolutely nothing in common.
The Dillard's are strict Presbyterians and, he and his wife are all about appearances and concerned what others think about them. Mr. Dillard belongs to a country club that bans Jews and Blacks, unless of course they work at the country club waiting on the members. Mr. Dillard also makes it a point to pray for President Ford at dinner each evening.
The Cones, as May Jane learns from her first day inside their home, are an unorganized disaster. The inside of their lovely home is pure disorder. Mr. Cone can never find his keys because of all the stuff in places everywhere except where they belong. His wife Bonnie doesn't work but, she doesn't cook or clean either. Despite this, the family is relaxed, fun, in love and Izzy is a delightful, happy child. The couple is free-spirited and demonstrative with affection which is so foreign to Mary Jane. After her first few days on the job, Mary Jane knows that her parents would freak out if they knew the real Cones, especially the fact that their summer houseguests are rockstar Jimmy Bendinger, a recovering heroin addict who Mr. Cone is treating for addiction issues and his actress wife Sheba. Mary Jane is enthralled by the uniqueness of this family and their guests and loves feeling a part of it all. Mary Jane is also bright and knows her parents well, she quickly realizes that in order to keep the nanny job she loves, she must tell her parents some half-truths and some down right lies. Of course, the story couldn't end without the Dillards learning the truth and when they do - oh boy!
I loved this story and I was sad to have it end. The 70s vibe was so much fun. The story never felt too heavy given the fact that drugs, sex, prejudice and racism are written into the storyline. I loved Mary Jane, she seemed so wise, mature and self-aware. I especially loved the unconventional characters, they felt so real, loving and genuine despite their flaws. This is one of those stories that is sure to stick with me a long while. I'm so happy I read it.
Thanks go to Custom House and Edelweiss for allowing me access to this delightful book in exchange for my unbiased review.