Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Welcome to Shirley Review

Welcome to Shirley tells the story of author Kelly McMasters' working-class hometown on Long Island.

I whipped through this book in a matter of days. McMasters uses her sharp eye for detail to create fully rendered and complex characters.

While much nonfiction is "simply the facts, ma'am," Welcome to Shirley exhibited a welcome literary sensibility that enhanced the story. Here's a physical description that stayed with me -- "His jeans hung from his hips as if on pegs, and his skin, always so tanned and pliant, drew across his temples in waxy white stretches." (84)

While the environmental destruction wrought by nuclear waste leaks at the Brookhaven laboratory provides the central focus for McMasters' narrative, she puts it in perspective, holding it up against smaller-scale tragedies -- deaths and misfortunes that are smaller in scope.

Welcome to Shirley is the first memoir I've read in recent memory, but I found McMasters' novelistic tone eased me into this new genre. Highly recommended for a beach read, but have a few tissues handy.

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