Thursday, July 29, 2010

Book Report: (Another Walk) Downtown with Anne Rivers Siddons

The other day I finished re-reading the novel Downtown by Anne Rivers Siddons. I thought that maybe I wouldn't enjoy it as much or be as moved by it the second time around, but I was wrong. In fact, I think it moved me more.
Downtown is the story of 26-year-old Smoky O' Donnell, a writer living in Georgia in 1966. Sheltered and green, a surprise phone call impels her to leave the safety of her parents' house and her insurance job to write for Downtown magazine in Atlanta. Mesmerized by the city, she immediately falls in love with her independence, the eccentric, close-knit Downtown staff, and the burgeoning civil rights movement. Yet her bubble of happiness is punctured by conflicts, both professional and personal, that are born of the times and challenge who she will become. Hers is an extraordinary story, heart-wrenching in its idealism, and shyly courageous between its considerable layers. It's funny too, touched by the kind of gentle, inside-joke humor that pulls you into the characters' inner circle and makes it hard to leave. I hesitate to call it a "coming of age tale" or "historical fiction" or anything else that slides it into a generic box because it's so much more than that. Indeed, Siddons's characters and breathtaking prose will echo in your head long after you've turned the last page.

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