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Girl Intrepid: A New York Story of Privilege and Perseverance

Adult; Memoir; (Market)

An engrossing memoir about a spirited and independent-minded young woman growing up on the pre-Sixties East Coast. The book is, in part, about how the particular time and place -- and family -- you are born into shapes you, whether you embrace those factors or rebel against them. Like her mother, who was a lawyer, she ultimately powered her way into a profession dominated by men and became a successful architect. As Gail Godwin notes, this is "a masterful work of anthropology, a compelling tale of a stubborn female individual coming of age not in Samoa but in upper-class America just before women's rights kicked in. Laced with a subtle under-wit and sometimes alarming candor."
Reviews
Armstrong’s (The Little House) poignant memoir is a nuanced drama. In the summer of 1947, in the wake of her parents’ divorce, Armstrong moves with her mother from Boston to New York City. Enrolled at her mother’s alma mater, the Brearley School, Armstrong struggles to fit in, while her mother struggles to land a spot in a law firm. Despite being cash-poor, Armstrong spends summers with her mother in lavish digs around the world, whereas her time with her beloved and temperamental father hinges on sailing and his drunken tirades.

While Armstrong’s life is fascinating, it is her mother, Barbara, who captivates. A single mother, Barbara has a brief stint with depression before she pivots and establishes herself as a firm scion of survival: she becomes an international spy—until she marries a doctor, allowing her to resume her career as a lawyer and affording her daughter a wealthier lifestyle. Like her mother, Armstrong is pioneering and full of grit, becoming an award-winning architect at a time when the field was largely a boys’ club. She teeters emotionally between her mercurial parents, and it plays out in her personal life as she searches for parental figures and embarks on three ill-fated marriages.

Armstrong excels at allowing the reader to empathize with an intimate portrayal of her search for connection, stability, and love. The added bonus of a photo gallery in the center of the book features her family and important figures in her life and showcases her work as an architect. This is a moving coming-of-age memoir that will enthrall readers as they travel through the dizzying turns of Armstrong’s life, from her early childhood to the death of her enigmatic mother.

Takeaway: A candid memoir of the dynamics between a compelling mother and her independent, tenacious daughter.

Great for fans of: Jeannette Walls, Ariel Leve.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

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