A Peek Into the Past – Review of “The Saturday Evening Girls Club” by Jane Healey

Four immigrant girlfriends from four disparate backgrounds are members of “The Saturday Evening Girls Club”. What sets them apart is the shared characteristic of courage. The courage to be different is the secret strength that guides them through the labyrinthine path of the , ir hopes and dreams.

In the early 1900’s women were less than second class citizens. Society’s dictates were cemented into the fabric of life in Boston’s North End and women were expected to blindly ‘obey’ their husbands, allowing themselves to be subjugated. Italian born Caprice, Ada with her Russian heritage, Maria of an Italian Catholic mother, and shy Thea who wants to be more assertive even as she still clings to the old ways, have been friends since they were thirteen. These four friends have consistently demonstrated their loyalty and their love and respect for each other. Their weekly meetings keep that bond strong and help guide them through their inevitable family struggles and give them the courage to resist the cultural biases they face and help them navigate their stormy romantic entanglements.

I’ve read two other books by Jane Healey; “The Beantown Girls” and “The Secret Stealers” so when “The Saturday Evening Girls Club” was available I jumped at the chance to read it. Healey does a masterful job of portraying immigrant life in that era right down to the sights, sounds and smells of tenement living. Your neighbors knew without asking what you were having for dinner, and no one had to tell them when your parents were bickering because they could clearly hear the hurled insults between husbands and wives. And God help the youngsters if they even thought about getting into trouble because someone they knew was bound to see them and rat them out.

However “The Saturday Evening Girls Club” doesn’t quite measure up to the standards set by the other two Healey novels I’ve read, although seeing that this is her debut novel helps somewhat soften my critical analysis. While I can appreciate the difficulty of navigating four intersecting plot lines, I remain unconvinced that Healey succeeded in accomplishing her goal of successfully knitting together all four. Caprice is the central figure around which the other three seem to orbit but their stories are not nearly as compelling as hers. Because of that the action stalled out several times and my mind wandered off in other directions. Yes the four stories are loosely connected and perhaps that’s the problem. They need a stronger connection that will hold up under pressure. And it just ain’t there. Three stars.

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