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Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Lovely Shoes by Susan Shreve

The Lovely Shoes by Susan Shreve (Rated: C)
Arthur A. Levine
ISBN: 978-0439680493
Published June 2011
Hardcover, 256 pages

It's 1956. All the teens are in love with Elvis Presley and swinging on the dance floor. Franny is a beautiful girl with a birth defect. She needs to wear ugly, orthopaedic shoes because her left foot is “crippled” as her father, the paediatrician would say.

At fourteen, Franny is experiencing new issues. Her mother, Margaret, is a tour de force, beautiful, elegant and flamboyant in their small Ohio town. She is determined for Franny to have fun as a teenager without letting her physical impediment get in the way. This embarrasses Franny, as her mother disregards Franny's fears of going to the school dance and being unable to fast dance. She takes Franny shopping for a new dress and makes her experiment with new shoes.

Because of this, a very embarrassing incident happens at the school dance and Franny's anger silently boils over so that she no longer wants to be the sweet accommodating girl everyone loves and takes for granted. But Franny's mom doesn't give up and decides to write to Salvatore Ferragamo, a well-known Italian shoemaker, asking him to create a beautiful pair of shoes specifically for her daughter. The journey to Italy helps Franny to accept herself as she is while appreciating the mother who loves her unconditionally and who will concoct crazy plans to make sure Franny does not miss out on the joys of first experiences.

Although I am certainly different from Margaret, I admired the way she understood her daughter's pain and patiently did her best to help her. She was a fun mom, even though Franny did not think so at the time. Franny hated the fact they were going to Italy specifically because of her deformed foot and not for the sake of going on a trip. The author handles Franny's anger well, and although Franny is passively aggressive, it's clear she needs to come to terms with her angry feelings and her self-image. Her inner strength is hidden within her, and she discovers it when others who matter see her for who she is and not for what she can or cannot do.

This story is based on the author's own experience of having had polio and undergone surgeries, making it possible for her to walk and run. She also went to Italy after her mother wrote to Ferragamo to have a pair of shoes made for her. The author has certainly succeeded in taking her experiences and turning them into a beautiful story! I enjoyed reading it. I also liked Franny's relationship with her younger brother which made me think of my own children, a sister and brother team. Sometimes, the writing felt choppy, but overall, it's a story teens will appreciate.

I started reading this to my 10 year-old daughter but decided she should read it when a little older since the main character had finished 8th grade, while my daughter was only ending 4th grade. She couldn't relate to the themes relating to high school and dating. Frankly, I would rather she wait before reading books that explore discovering boys. She has plenty of time for that later. So although this book is marketed for middle grade (9-12) I thought of it more for teen or YA.

This is a coming of age story, perfect for mother/daughter book clubs who want to explore mother and daughter relationships, inner beauty versus outer beauty, and the emotionally-wrought world of teens and high school.
  
I will count this book for the following challenges: YA Reading Challenge and Italy in Books Challenge

Disclosure: I received this book from Nikole Kritikos of Scholastic Canada. I was not told how to rate or review this book.

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4 comments :

  1. I always love books that are based on true stories. It sounds like Franny's mother did a wonderful job in a time when people weren't so empathetic.

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  2. I would really like to read this one. It sounds like a great YA read. I will have to add this one to my wishlist.

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  3. I think both Booking Daughter and I would enjoy this one. My daughter is almost 12 and, while she's still shy around boys, she does enjoy some books that explore these subjects.

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