Wally Baker is no ordinary girl. Living in her grandparents' Brooklyn Heights brownstone, she doesn't like dresses, needlepoint, or manners. Her love of "Wonder Woman" comics and ants makes her feel like a misfit--especially in the shadow of her dazzling but unstable mother, Stella. Acclaimed... show more
Wally Baker is no ordinary girl. Living in her grandparents' Brooklyn Heights brownstone, she doesn't like dresses, needlepoint, or manners. Her love of "Wonder Woman" comics and ants makes her feel like a misfit--especially in the shadow of her dazzling but unstable mother, Stella. Acclaimed author Elizabeth Gaffney's irresistible novel captures postwar Brooklyn through Wally's eyes, opening on V-J day, as she grows up with the rest of America. Reeling from her own unexpected wartime tragedy and navigating an increasingly fraught landscape, Wally is forced to confront painful truths about the world--its sorrows, its prejudices, its conflicts, its limitations. But Wally also finds hope and strength in the unlikeliest places. With an unforgettable cast of characters, including the increasingly distant and distracted Stella; Loretta, the family's black maid and Wally's second mother; Ham, Loretta's son, who shares Wally's enthusiasm for ants and exploration; Rudy, Wally's father, a naval officer, away serving in the Pacific; and Mr. Niederman, the family's boarder, who never seems to answer Wally's questions--and who she suspects may have something to hide--Elizabeth Gaffney crafts an immersive, beautifully realized novel about the truths that divide and the love that keeps us together. Advance praise for "When the World Was Young" "In this beautifully written novel--an honest and irresistible ride through post-World War II America in all its glory and its shame--Elizabeth Gaffney explores mothers and daughters, upstairs and downstairs, loveless marriages and passionate affairs, without ever losing her story or the fabulous characters that inhabit it."--B. A. Shapiro, "New York Times "bestselling author of "The Art Forger" ""When the World Was Young" is an enormous achievement--fun, sad, beautiful, perhaps the best book about Brooklyn in the war years since the war years. Gaffney now stands in the company of E. L. Doctorow, Joyce Carol Oates, Ann Patchett, and I can't think of many others tall enough."--Darin Strauss, author of "Chang and Eng "and" Half a Life"" " "Dignified and fierce, a work of complex and unconventional beauty . . . Through Wally and her glamorous doctor mother, Gaffney movingly explores wartime passions, the emotional sacrifices made by strong women on the home front, and the wounding power of secrets."--Sheri Holman, author of" The Dress Lodger"" " "The genius of "When the World Was Young" is that, in re-creating a particularly gorgeous and promise-filled moment in American history, it also reminds us how constricting that moment could be for an adventurous soul caught living in it. Elizabeth Gaffney is in perfect control of her material, and captures all the complications of what we might like to remember as an uncomplicated time."--Jonathan Dee, author of "A Thousand Pardons "and" The Privileges" "A powerhouse novel with a rich cast of unforgettable characters . . . At the heart of the quick-paced narrative is young Wally Baker, and her voice and her manner, her courage and her life-affirming decision during a time of crisis will long be remembered, as indeed this richly textured novel will be remembered."--Nicholas Rinaldi, author of "Between Two Rivers" "Wally Baker, the protagonist of Elizabeth Gaffney's fine historical novel, is an undeniable, irrepressible, and thoroughly unforgettable heroine for any century."--Helen Schulman, author of "This Beautiful Life"