Cover image for The Eleanor Roosevelt girls
The Eleanor Roosevelt girls
Bluh, Bonnie Charles.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : LyreBird Books, [1998]

Physical Description:
225 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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This compelling novel is a rich and moving saga of female friendship, loyalty, and personal growth in America from 1942 to the present.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In a call-and-response pattern of recollected dialogue, Julia remembers Mallory and the rest of their friends, the girls' club of the title, growing up Jewish and Catholic in Queens before World War II. The chapters slip between the decades, as maddening, beautiful, brilliant Mallory moves in and out of Julia's life. The girls grow up, make bad marriages, have children or not; their parents age. The nun and the dancer, the writer and the editor, the abused by self or by others, speak their stories in conversations that sound as though we were overhearing them over coffee. The men in this tale do not fare well, are loutish or brutal or worse, and one wife beater, in a brilliantly carthartic scene, gets what he deserves. It is Mallory's death, as willful and unpredictable as her life, that leads Julia to tracking down the old crowd, all now in their sixties, a group of women whose choices have made them all the more what they were when they began. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido

Publisher's Weekly Review

Through a lively sequence of flashbacks, Bluh (Woman to Woman) weaves a complex story of female friendships spanning more than 50 years. Upon hearing of her dearest friend Mallory's suicide, the bitter, grieving narrator, Julia, a successful playwright in her early 60s, reflects on her childhood in Sunnyside, Queens, a neighborhood fraught with tensions between its Catholic and Jewish residents. In 1937, insecure Julia, the brilliant, mercurial Mallory and six young girls of various religions and ethnic backgrounds find respite from home lives marked by absent, indifferent or abusive parents by forming a friendship club named for their heroine, Eleanor Roosevelt. As adults, the club members drift apart and into mostly failed marriages and romances with men, and the occasional harmonious lesbian relationship, as they build careers as disparate as fashion magazine editor, police detective, nun and dancer. Over the decades the women are repeatedly drawn together. Valiantly, sometimes illegally, they rescue each other from the perils of bad men and low self-esteem. Bluh's depiction of the intensities, jealousies, betrayals and loyalties of female friendship rings true; her portrait of the charismatic Mallory is particularly compelling. Mallory is both self-indulgent, carrying on an affair with, and eventually marrying, her friend Cynthia's father, and deeply generous, masterminding a plan to get her friend Claire out from under her monstrous husband's thumb. Julia's friendship with Mallory is as passionate as it is turbulent, and her struggle to understand her friend's suicide and to discover her identity apart from Mallory is delicately rendered. At times Bluh overstates her message of female solidarity, and this occasional flatness undermines the authentic, sensitive dialogue. But her flesh-and-blood women, especially Mallory and Julia, reveal the inspiring, necessarily complicated feminist vision at the heart of this fine novel. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A performer and playwright by trade, Bluh (Banana, LJ 5/15/76) tells the story of Julia and Mallory, two Jewish girls in Queens who become best friends in grade school. In 1942, at age 12, they gather six other girls, mostly Christian, to become the Eleanor Roosevelt Girls (ERG). Over the next 50 years, they are in and out of each other's lives, but Julia and Mallory remain especially close; as narrator, Julia must eventually deal with Mallory's unexpected suicide. Using Eleanor Roosevelt's epigraph "What one has to do usually can be done," they perform two rash but brave acts: they rescue and hide an abused ERG wife and, later, an ERG's half-sister. Not an engaging or skillful novel, this would have perhaps been more powerful as a play. Purchase only if the fiction budget is large.‘Rebecca Sturm Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib, Highland Heights (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.