My rating: 1 of 5 stars
West Springfield, Massachusetts is not a hick town, as called in this book. It is a city of over 28,000 people with a median family income of over $50,000. Some of its early citizens were minutemen whom fought in the American Revolutionary War. Today, it is often referred to as the “crossroads of New England” due to the intersecting highways and rail lines that flow within its borders. I personally know many people from West Springfield, none of whom I would refer to as “hicks”. Right away, I am annoyed by Diana Sperrazza’s apparent class disparaging book MY TOWNIE HEART.
This book is barely fiction: it is a counseling session. We have to listen as the author (through her fictionalized character) bemoans her past. We are subject to the “woe is me” stories of her dropping out of school after doing too much crack, moving back into the home of alcoholic parents, and then developing debilitating agoraphobia. There are no fleshed out characters; there are no redeeming qualities. This doesn’t feel like a novel; it feels like a memoir with a few changed facts and names. (Reading the Amazon profile and some of the author interviews, the author talks about starting this book as a memoir, and then changing around facts and adding characters to make it a fictional account.)
Perhaps there is a touch of parvenu to Ms. Sperrazza, thinking her experience is different than 99% of the American population. Although she does recognize there are similar working class towns spread across the country, she constantly relishes in the fact that she escaped. She fought the hard fight, broke through her imagined caste system, and now can live like those Mount Holyoke girls she once despised.
The writing style isn’t broken, it’s just tiresome. Everything is edited well enough; the message came through as intended. The problem is, it reads like a long complaint letter. Yes, all was not roses in the family. Yes, there was tragedy and horrific abuses. No, there is not anything here to differentiate this story from thousands of others. No, there is not anything we can gain as readers. This is the author’s healing process that we happen to witness.
There are also hints of racism, which I can’t stand. There’s a difference between characters in a novel whom are racist and narrators of a near-memoir that hint about the black man in dreadlocks or about the Puerto Rican that got his girlfriend pregnant and is now in jail. Parts of this book caused me to stop, ponder, and cringe.
As always, thank you to the publisher for sharing this book with me to review. The pages were tall with a ton of text on each. This made the book more thin and not as conducive to reading. Usually I’m a fan of “coming of age” books or books that address familial relationships. Not this time.
There are currently seven other reviews of this book on Amazon: most of which are 5-star ratings from brand new reviewers. You can see those reviews and the book’s preview, here: My Townie Heart