•Hardcover: 240 pages
•Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (July 16, 2019)
The “mesmerizing . . . daring and important”* story of a risk-taking girlhood spent in a working-class prison town —Andre Dubus III
For Maureen Stanton’s proper Catholic mother, the town’s maximum-security prison was a way to keep her seven children in line (“If you don’t behave, I’ll put you in Walpole Prison!”). But as the 1970s brought upheaval to America, and the lines between good and bad blurred, Stanton’s once-solid family lost its way. A promising young girl with a smart mouth, Stanton turns watchful as her parents separate and her now-single mother descends into shoplifting, then grand larceny, anything to keep a toehold in the middle class for her children. No longer scared by threats of Walpole Prison, Stanton too slips into delinquency—vandalism, breaking and entering—all while nearly erasing herself through addiction to angel dust, a homemade form of PCP that swept through her hometown in the wake of Nixon’s “total war” on drugs.
Body Leaping Backward is the haunting and beautifully drawn story of a self-destructive girlhood, of a town and a nation overwhelmed in a time of change, and of how life-altering a glimpse of a world bigger than the one we come from can be.
Body Leaping Backward is a fascinating and well-written memoir that details Maureen Stanton’s life in a prison town and discusses the 1970’s era in which she grew up in. Relying on her memory as well as her journal entries, Stanton gives a detailed recount of her troubled teenage years.
In the first few chapters of the book, Maureen describes a fairly normal early childhood where she had a good home life and very involved in school activities. However, that all changed when her parents suddenly got divorced. Following her parent’s divorce, Maureen searched endlessly for a sense of normalcy. This searching eventually led her into the world of shoplifting, skipping school, experimenting with drugs such as angel dust, and breaking and entering into neighborhood homes.
Though Maureen didn’t fully realize it at the time, her parent’s divorce had a major effect on her mindset. One of her journal entries from May 26, 1975 addresses this change. “I was in the weirdest mood today. One minute I just felt like crying but I don’t know why and the next minute I was laughing. We had an algebra quiz and I couldn’t concentrate so I got a 44”. Though it’s probably clear to most of us today that Maureen was experiencing depression, mental health wasn’t very well understood in the 70’s.
Maureen’s mom ends up taking her to a psychologist, but it doesn’t do much good. It isn’t until years later when she starts seeing Jim, her parent’s former marriage counselor, that she has a personal breakthrough. “I’d spent so much energy concealing my real self, suppressing my feelings, pretending I didn’t care about anything, that I’d lost whatever self I’d developed before my teenage years.” It took some time for Maureen to get back to that self, but she found her way back once she stopped avoiding her feelings through rebellion and drugs.
This coming-of-age memoir does an excellent job of illustrating how the hardships you experience in adolescence can affect your adulthood for better or for worse. Through her experiences, Maureen shows us that sometimes you turn left when you should have turned right. But, if you stop and ask for directions, you can always find your way back.
About Maureen Stanton
Maureen Stanton is an award-winning nonfiction writer, and author of “Body Leaping Backward: Memoir of a Delinquent Girlhood,” a People Magazine “Best New Books” pick, and “Killer Stuff and Tons of Money,” winner of the 2012 Massachusetts Book Award in nonfiction. Her essays and memoirs have been published in many literary journals, including Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, The Florida Review, New England Review, and River Teeth, among others. She has received the Iowa Review Prize, the American Literary Review Prize, Pushcart Prizes, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and Maine Arts Commission Individual Artist Fellowships. She has an M.F.A. from Ohio State University, and teaches at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours for inviting me on this blog tour for Body Leaping Backward I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from the publisher through TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.