The books of Marilyn Sachs were some of my favorites growing up. I'm convinced that my reading habits influenced the purchasing decisions at the tiny public library I patronized back then. The librarians noticed that I checked out the Sachs books over and over (those were the days when they had to hand-write my library-card number on the check-out card, and stamp the due date on another card that fit into an envelope in the back of the book). They would tell me whenever a new Sachs book came in, and they said they recommended the books to other girls my age, based on my zeal.
Sachs wrote a series of books about linked characters: Amy Moves In; Amy and Laura, about the original Amy and her sister; Laura's Luck, about the two sisters at summer camp; Veronica Ganz, about a girl who had bullied Amy and Laura; Peter and Veronica, about Veronica and her friend Peter Wedemeyer; and Marv,
about a friend of Peter's. All of these books took place in New York
shortly before World War II. It would be interesting for writers to look
at this chain of books, because it's not quite a series, but rather a
set of stand-alone books whose enjoyment is enhanced if you recognize
the overlapping characters from book to book. From an author's
standpoint, it's a way of building an audience and using a consistent
fictional world without doing a formal series.
character Veronica Ganz had a sister, Mary Rose, whom I liked because
she had built an imaginary world out of magazine pictures. It was much
like the imaginary world that I, a budding writer, had constructed for
myself. (Also, I liked the character's name). Mary Rose was only a
minor character in those books, so I was thrilled to find Sachs's book The Truth About Mary Rose
in the library one day, because it promised to give a whole book to
Mary Rose. In fact, this is the cover that my library's version had:
But The Truth About Mary Rose
is set a couple of decades after all the other books. Veronica Ganz is
grown now, married with three children, one of whom is named Mary Rose
after her sister. It turns out that the original Mary Rose perished in
a fire while still a young girl.
book revolves around the second Mary Rose's quest to find out as much
as she can about the girl for whom she was named. She hunts for a
mysterious box that belonged to the first Mary Rose--the only thing
that survived the deadly fire. Thus, Sachs uses an an authorial device I call the "mystery box".
A device that works wonderfully, I might add. Along with the box, the
second Mary Rose uncovers unexpected truths about the fire that killed
her aunt, and she has to accept a certain amount of ambiguity about the
events of that night.
many reasons, this was my favorite of Sachs's books. It takes some
familiar characters and shows them in a new light. It also differs from
the previous books because it is told in first person, which helps
eliminate the confusion of having two characters with the same name,
and shortens the narrative distance. It covers family conflict in a
humorous way. But mostly, it revolves around a mystery and a tragedy.
It's about a passion to know the truth, and an acceptance that
sometimes we can't know the full truth. It's about realizing that
different people see us differently, that there is no one "true view"
of ourselves in the eyes of other people.
book was first published in 1973, and it's interesting to see how
short middle-grade books were back then--this book is only 159 pages.
(In the pre-Harry-Potter era, MG books were about that long, and YA
books were about 175 to 250 pages). Since it's also set around 1973,
some of the references in it may puzzle today's readers--does anyone
still know what a peignoir set is? But if you can find a used copy of
this book floating around, it's worth checking out because it is, quite
simply, an example of a darn good story: a story that has stuck in my
head for years.