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Girls of Tender Age: A Memoir

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In Girls of Tender Age, Mary-Ann Tirone Smith fully articulates with great humor and tenderness the wild jubilance of an extended French-Italian family struggling to survive in a post-World War II housing project in Hartford, Connecticut. Smith seamlessly combines a memoir whose intimacy matches that of Angela's Ashes with the tale of a community plagued by a malevolent pr In Girls of Tender Age, Mary-Ann Tirone Smith fully articulates with great humor and tenderness the wild jubilance of an extended French-Italian family struggling to survive in a post-World War II housing project in Hartford, Connecticut. Smith seamlessly combines a memoir whose intimacy matches that of Angela's Ashes with the tale of a community plagued by a malevolent predator that holds the emotional and cultural resonance of The Lovely Bones. Smith's Hartford neighborhood is small-town America, where everyone’s door is unlocked and the school, church, library, drugstore, 5 & 10, grocery, and tavern are all within walking distance. Her family is peopled with memorable characters—her possibly psychic mother who's always on the verge of a nervous breakdown, her adoring father who makes sure she has something to eat in the morning beyond her usual gulp of Hershey’s syrup, her grandfather who teaches her to bash in the heads of the eels they catch on Long Island Sound, Uncle Guido who makes the annual bagna cauda, and the numerous aunts and cousins who parade through her life with love and food and endless stories of the old days. And then there’s her brother, Tyler. Smith's household was “different.” Little Mary-Ann couldn't have friends over because her older brother, Tyler, an autistic before anyone knew what that meant, was unable to bear noise of any kind. To him, the sound of crying, laughing, phones ringing, or toilets flushing was “a cloud of barbed needles” flying into his face. Subject to such an assault, he would substitute that pain with another: he'd try to chew his arm off. Tyler was Mary-Ann's real-life Boo Radley, albeit one whose bookshelves sagged under the weight of the World War II books he collected and read obsessively. Hanging over this rough-and-tumble American childhood is the sinister shadow of an approaching serial killer. The menacing Bob Malm lurks throughout this joyous and chaotic family portrait, and the havoc he unleashes when the paths of innocence and evil cross one early December evening in 1953 forever alters the landscape of Smith's childhood. Girls of Tender Age is one of those books that will forever change its readers because of its beauty and power and remarkable wit.


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In Girls of Tender Age, Mary-Ann Tirone Smith fully articulates with great humor and tenderness the wild jubilance of an extended French-Italian family struggling to survive in a post-World War II housing project in Hartford, Connecticut. Smith seamlessly combines a memoir whose intimacy matches that of Angela's Ashes with the tale of a community plagued by a malevolent pr In Girls of Tender Age, Mary-Ann Tirone Smith fully articulates with great humor and tenderness the wild jubilance of an extended French-Italian family struggling to survive in a post-World War II housing project in Hartford, Connecticut. Smith seamlessly combines a memoir whose intimacy matches that of Angela's Ashes with the tale of a community plagued by a malevolent predator that holds the emotional and cultural resonance of The Lovely Bones. Smith's Hartford neighborhood is small-town America, where everyone’s door is unlocked and the school, church, library, drugstore, 5 & 10, grocery, and tavern are all within walking distance. Her family is peopled with memorable characters—her possibly psychic mother who's always on the verge of a nervous breakdown, her adoring father who makes sure she has something to eat in the morning beyond her usual gulp of Hershey’s syrup, her grandfather who teaches her to bash in the heads of the eels they catch on Long Island Sound, Uncle Guido who makes the annual bagna cauda, and the numerous aunts and cousins who parade through her life with love and food and endless stories of the old days. And then there’s her brother, Tyler. Smith's household was “different.” Little Mary-Ann couldn't have friends over because her older brother, Tyler, an autistic before anyone knew what that meant, was unable to bear noise of any kind. To him, the sound of crying, laughing, phones ringing, or toilets flushing was “a cloud of barbed needles” flying into his face. Subject to such an assault, he would substitute that pain with another: he'd try to chew his arm off. Tyler was Mary-Ann's real-life Boo Radley, albeit one whose bookshelves sagged under the weight of the World War II books he collected and read obsessively. Hanging over this rough-and-tumble American childhood is the sinister shadow of an approaching serial killer. The menacing Bob Malm lurks throughout this joyous and chaotic family portrait, and the havoc he unleashes when the paths of innocence and evil cross one early December evening in 1953 forever alters the landscape of Smith's childhood. Girls of Tender Age is one of those books that will forever change its readers because of its beauty and power and remarkable wit.

30 review for Girls of Tender Age: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bren fall in love with the sea.

    I enjoyed reading this biographical account of the Author's life in Hartford Connecticut. Several people I know also read this book and were very impressed. Two of the major issues covered are Autism. (Author's brother is autistic. And a serial child predator who was around at that time. This is not fiction. All of this really happened and the writing is very articulate and sensitive. I thoroughly enjoyed Girls of tender age and highly recommend it. I enjoyed reading this biographical account of the Author's life in Hartford Connecticut. Several people I know also read this book and were very impressed. Two of the major issues covered are Autism. (Author's brother is autistic. And a serial child predator who was around at that time. This is not fiction. All of this really happened and the writing is very articulate and sensitive. I thoroughly enjoyed Girls of tender age and highly recommend it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jonas

    This is the January selection for my local library book club. I would not have picked up the book if it wasn’t for the group. I am glad I did because it is a part of Connecticut’s history that I was unaware. I have been to every city referenced in the memoir which made for a very interesting reading experience. The memoir is part Angela’s Ashes and part Devil in the White City. The reader gets to experience life in the capital city (Hartford) during the 1950s. There are many misunderstandings and This is the January selection for my local library book club. I would not have picked up the book if it wasn’t for the group. I am glad I did because it is a part of Connecticut’s history that I was unaware. I have been to every city referenced in the memoir which made for a very interesting reading experience. The memoir is part Angela’s Ashes and part Devil in the White City. The reader gets to experience life in the capital city (Hartford) during the 1950s. There are many misunderstandings and misconceptions of language by the author as a young child. Many will find this endearing and humorous. This memoir captures the ups and downs in the lives of an atypical family while chronicling the horrific crime against the author’s classmate. The crime is committed by Robert Malm. It is heartbreaking how tiny little events aligned to put the child in the path of the predator. It is shocking and horrifying to see how investigations were run and the overall perspective of the time impacts the investigation. I was absolutely impressed with the chief. He did not mess around and he went all out to put Malm away. The author’s life was not easy growing up. But they had a wonderful relationship with extended family to help them navigate. There are life challenges that many readers can connect with-autism, Alzheimer's, trauma, and cancer. This was written before autism was a diagnosis. The treatment of children with autism back then is quite shocking. I found the section when the author spent time in an autism support group for adults particularly touching. I was caught off guard at some of the twists and turns. There are many examples of compassion and the best of humanity later in the book highlighting the beautiful souls that serve in the healthcare industry. I found the ending very moving.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    Something about this book really resonated with me. This is the memoir of a woman who grew up in a lower income, blue collar neighborhood in Harford, Conneticut in the 1950's. Her family consists of her mom, dad and older brother who is autistic along with many aunts, uncles and cousins. The trials and tribulations of living with her autistic brother were both hilarious and sad. She also tells the story of the murder of school friend when they are 11 years old. This part of the story is heartbreak Something about this book really resonated with me. This is the memoir of a woman who grew up in a lower income, blue collar neighborhood in Harford, Conneticut in the 1950's. Her family consists of her mom, dad and older brother who is autistic along with many aunts, uncles and cousins. The trials and tribulations of living with her autistic brother were both hilarious and sad. She also tells the story of the murder of school friend when they are 11 years old. This part of the story is heartbreaking. If you are a reader who enjoys memoirs, I would recommend this one.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Aleta Staton

    I attended a Women's Creativity Conference at Quinnipiac University where the author of this book presented her thoughts on writing memoir as well as a description of this particular book. After she closed, at least 20 people purchased the book immediately. It reads very quickly. As a resident of Connecticut, the historical and geographical data was personally relevant, and pleasantly presented comfortably within the context of the story. The clips of the two stories that she tells here were exp I attended a Women's Creativity Conference at Quinnipiac University where the author of this book presented her thoughts on writing memoir as well as a description of this particular book. After she closed, at least 20 people purchased the book immediately. It reads very quickly. As a resident of Connecticut, the historical and geographical data was personally relevant, and pleasantly presented comfortably within the context of the story. The clips of the two stories that she tells here were expertly measured and drawn and when the major characters of each finally crossed paths, it was not too soon, nor too late. Mary-Ann's depiction of herself coming of age in a Northeastern town where gender and cultural distinctions were very clear if not fair is very telling in the face of the national battles that eventually ensued on both fronts. Her facing and then finding a constructive way to deal with the unspeakable tragedy that befell her community is hopeful. Highly recommend.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Susie

    I re-read this book recently and found it just as compelling as I did the first time. It is an exceptional memoir that blends personal history, true crime, and a portrait of autism - seamlessly. I wish I could write like Mary-Ann Tirone Smith.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Stefanie

    This book grew on me, big time. If only I could write something half as good as this one day...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra Shweer

    This book is one of the best memoirs I've ever read. Love it. This book is one of the best memoirs I've ever read. Love it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Love

    Did not want to rate this one at all. Could not make myself read this one! Got to page 20 and put it down for good..I do not want to rate a book I did not finish but you got to put something down... I hated the writing style not the content of the story. Wish I could have stuck with it seeing as I wated a year for this one. REVISION: I just got this on audio cd. I liked listening to it much better then reading the text. I would now rate this at least 3.5 stars. If you could but not 4 ..so I will Did not want to rate this one at all. Could not make myself read this one! Got to page 20 and put it down for good..I do not want to rate a book I did not finish but you got to put something down... I hated the writing style not the content of the story. Wish I could have stuck with it seeing as I wated a year for this one. REVISION: I just got this on audio cd. I liked listening to it much better then reading the text. I would now rate this at least 3.5 stars. If you could but not 4 ..so I will drop it to a 3 for goodreads measure. Worth the listen :)

  9. 5 out of 5

    Melody

    Not what I was expecting. It was a compelling memoir, but the research into the villain's life was less interesting to me. It felt somehow fragmented, the author's life as part of her family of origin, the murder, the story of the bad guy- each could have stood alone and may have lost something, in my mind, from being shoehorned into one book. Not what I was expecting. It was a compelling memoir, but the research into the villain's life was less interesting to me. It felt somehow fragmented, the author's life as part of her family of origin, the murder, the story of the bad guy- each could have stood alone and may have lost something, in my mind, from being shoehorned into one book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Baba

    Mary-Anne Tirone Smith's intimate and open memoir shares the stories ofthe impact of having an autistic brother in the 1950s and having to cope with a friend being murdered by a paedophile! 6 out of 12. Mary-Anne Tirone Smith's intimate and open memoir shares the stories ofthe impact of having an autistic brother in the 1950s and having to cope with a friend being murdered by a paedophile! 6 out of 12.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Meredith Crawford

    One of the best memoirs I've read. Writing so good it seems effortless. A real page-turner. One of the best memoirs I've read. Writing so good it seems effortless. A real page-turner.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lauriann

    I'm a Connecticut girl.  So, take a memoir written by a woman who grew up in Connecticut in the fifties, and  I have a book that resonates immediately.  Mary Ann grew up in a housing project in Hartford.  Her French/Italian family was large and loving.  Her house was accessible to school, the five and dime, a small corner grocer, the library.  Though money was probably always a struggle, that did not take center stage. What took center stage in her daily life was her brother Tyler's autism.  His I'm a Connecticut girl.  So, take a memoir written by a woman who grew up in Connecticut in the fifties, and  I have a book that resonates immediately.  Mary Ann grew up in a housing project in Hartford.  Her French/Italian family was large and loving.  Her house was accessible to school, the five and dime, a small corner grocer, the library.  Though money was probably always a struggle, that did not take center stage. What took center stage in her daily life was her brother Tyler's autism.  His rituals and responses made it impossible for her to ever have friends over.  Family life was dedicated to keeping Tyler from hurting himself and others, while bringing embarrassment to the family at the same time.  Autism was looked upon as retardation back in the day, and Tyler's behavior was frightening to many.  Incorporated into this memoir was a terrible crime that happened when Mary Ann was in the fifth grade.  One of her friends was walking home from the store when she was dragged behind a shed and murdered.  Mary Ann suppressed memories for two years after that, so traumatized was she.  The memories began to surface many years later, and contributed to  this writing.  And so there you have it - a memoir of family life in an economically struggling neighborhood, life with an autistic brother, and a terrible crime,  interwoven in a most readable way. Hartford was different  back then, with a downtown anchored by G.Fox and Company (no longer in existence.).  References to the store with eight stories of escalators struck a familiar and happy chord with me.  Mary Ann made mention of Hartford Public High School, from which my mom graduated.  What I did not know was that it was the second Public High School in the country. It was demolished to make way for I-84, its architecture and memories buried beneath rubble.  This book was written fifteen years ago, but it is timeless. Highly recommended.  ( liked that my three sisters were reading this at the same time I was!) Note: Years ago I enjoyed "When We Were The Kennedy's by Monica Wood. That was a memoir of a young girl who lost her father in the sixties at the same time that JFK was murdered. It was another example of an era I was very familiar with, so well expressed. I shared that parallel age/time as well.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Danielle Bonanno

    Love memoirs and this one did not disappoint. The author seamlessly weaves true crime, family drama, and comedy throughout her childhood story. Also recommending this to all of my Connecticut friends, as it takes place in 1950s Hartford.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    Page turning memoir of a girl growing up in Hartford, CT, whose classmate was murdered by a serial killer. The adults in her life didn't allow she or her friends to speak of the friend ever again, and she essentially blocked it out and forgot about it. When in college she mentioned it somewhat casually in a writing assignment and her professor encouraged her to find out what had happened. So began a journey of finding out about the killer, and throughout the book chapters of her childhood are in Page turning memoir of a girl growing up in Hartford, CT, whose classmate was murdered by a serial killer. The adults in her life didn't allow she or her friends to speak of the friend ever again, and she essentially blocked it out and forgot about it. When in college she mentioned it somewhat casually in a writing assignment and her professor encouraged her to find out what had happened. So began a journey of finding out about the killer, and throughout the book chapters of her childhood are interspersed with chapters explaining where he was at the time. As the story builds you know that their lives will one day intersect with the murder. Although the topic is obviously heavy, there are a lot of observations the young Mary-Ann makes that are quite funny. For instance, when she went to her first wake and her father told her that she was supposed to say "I'm sorry" to the family, she thought he was telling her to admit that the death was her fault. A side story in this book how Mary-Ann's family life was affected by her autistic older brother. No one used the label autism back then and when he did inappropriate things they blamed it on him being "retarded." Her brother's behavior was very severe - for instance he would gnaw his wrist down to the bone if he heard loud noises, so no one was allowed to make any noise in the house. Mary Ann's reflections as an adult of this aspect of her life and how she came to terms with that situation are another interesting part of the book. Some reviews have said that she spends too much time on the after the crime part of the book, but I disagree, as unraveling the story through her research as an adult is part of what makes the book unique.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    I bought this book for $1.00 at a library book sale. I love memoirs and this one was a real page turner. The author is a gifted writer from an Italian/French Catholic family who grew up in Hartford, Connecticut in the 1950s. I grew up in the same era in a different place.....Detroit and suburbs. I had many girlfriends who attended parochial Catholic schools, so the details of her religious education were familiar to me. This is a story of a dysfunctional family trying to cope with their normal d I bought this book for $1.00 at a library book sale. I love memoirs and this one was a real page turner. The author is a gifted writer from an Italian/French Catholic family who grew up in Hartford, Connecticut in the 1950s. I grew up in the same era in a different place.....Detroit and suburbs. I had many girlfriends who attended parochial Catholic schools, so the details of her religious education were familiar to me. This is a story of a dysfunctional family trying to cope with their normal daughter and her autistic brother at a time when there was no such diagnosis or treatment. Her strange upbringing both at school and at home is described with humor that made me laugh out loud and reminded me of things in my own childhood that did not make sense then or now. It is also a true crime story. The author's 11-year-old school friend was murdered and the details were hidden from her, and her feelings about it were repressed. Details about the murderer's background were interesting but summaries and transcripts from his trial did not hold my interest. I did not enjoy reading the detail of his botched execution. The book was well organized and well written. Mary-Ann Tirone Smith is the author of 8 novels in addition to this memoir. I would like to read more of this author's work based on the quality of her writing and research. My 4-star rating is based on my enjoyment of the book. She has many 5-star ratings from others on this site. I recommend this book to people who enjoy memoirs, those interested in true crime stories, or the mentally ill and their families.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Lee

    This was one of the weirdest books I've ever read. Was I reading about a serial killer or a memoir of the author's life (I have questions about this too)? Also, there were no quotation marks anywhere, and that's annoying. It was poorly organized, discombobulated, and confusing. A complicated family saga with some other things thrown in to try and make it exciting. It wasn't. This was one of the weirdest books I've ever read. Was I reading about a serial killer or a memoir of the author's life (I have questions about this too)? Also, there were no quotation marks anywhere, and that's annoying. It was poorly organized, discombobulated, and confusing. A complicated family saga with some other things thrown in to try and make it exciting. It wasn't.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sherrie

    What a great memoir of a girl growing up in 1953. It's not your typical 50's picture perfect family. Distance, illness and murder keep things interesting. Her autistic brother, Tyler, chews at his arm if he hears loud noises such as crying, loud talking, or laughing. If you had emotions, you had to stifle the sound...or risk Tyler going beserk. This means, the author, Mary-Ann Tirone Smith, never really gets to show her true emotions. Crying? What is that? She is also expected to take care of he What a great memoir of a girl growing up in 1953. It's not your typical 50's picture perfect family. Distance, illness and murder keep things interesting. Her autistic brother, Tyler, chews at his arm if he hears loud noises such as crying, loud talking, or laughing. If you had emotions, you had to stifle the sound...or risk Tyler going beserk. This means, the author, Mary-Ann Tirone Smith, never really gets to show her true emotions. Crying? What is that? She is also expected to take care of herself as her loving father has his hands tied with Tyler and her mother is too busy working and becoming an ace golfer. That isn't even the whole story. The book also tells the story of a murderer who kills a school mate of the author. Right in the neighborhood. The book, in odd chapters, follows the path of the murderer...basically from birth to his execution. It's fascinating and an amazing view of our judicial system. The book is also a great portrait of America in the 1950's. It reveals that families can love one another...no matter how imperfect. LOVED it. I will read more of Smith's work.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Phyllis

    What a great testimony to how a writing mind is composted from an "other than normal" childhood. The memoir never lost its focus on her development into a writer or its feel as both a novel and a memoir. The storyline has so much detail about those times it brought me back to my childhood in Northern Connecticut a decade later. The plot and structure have so much meat that I was never bored by the "memoir" aspect. The reader knows when the author introduces Bob in the early chapters and alternat What a great testimony to how a writing mind is composted from an "other than normal" childhood. The memoir never lost its focus on her development into a writer or its feel as both a novel and a memoir. The storyline has so much detail about those times it brought me back to my childhood in Northern Connecticut a decade later. The plot and structure have so much meat that I was never bored by the "memoir" aspect. The reader knows when the author introduces Bob in the early chapters and alternates his early life with hers there is something else coming in the book besides a story of one life. There will be meaning put to life for the reader to hold on to. I highly recommend this book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ann Marshall

    Capsule summary In GIRLS OF TENDER AGE, Mary Ann Tyrone-Smith beguiles us into her 1950s working class Hartford, Connecticut neighborhood, acquaints us with her huge Italian family, and teases us with “quaint” employment practices of those times. (In the early chapters, you could be thinking, Wow, we have come a long way, Baby!) But in the background, like the shark in JAWS, danger lurks, in the person of Robert Nelson Malm. He stalks in the recesses between the early chapters, as Smith introduces Capsule summary In GIRLS OF TENDER AGE, Mary Ann Tyrone-Smith beguiles us into her 1950s working class Hartford, Connecticut neighborhood, acquaints us with her huge Italian family, and teases us with “quaint” employment practices of those times. (In the early chapters, you could be thinking, Wow, we have come a long way, Baby!) But in the background, like the shark in JAWS, danger lurks, in the person of Robert Nelson Malm. He stalks in the recesses between the early chapters, as Smith introduces us to her parents, her cousins, and her brother, Tyler, five years older than she was. Tyler was an expert on World War II, what later became known as an autistic-savant. But this was before we knew what that was, and Tyler did not go to school. Smith’s friends just thought he was crazy. Then Smith plunges the reader into every parent’s worst nightmare: a true-crime story about a grade school murder committed by a serial child predator. Dark stuff, but she handles it with great skill, drawing the reader inside a child living through this horror, what she is told, and not; how she understands what happened. To help us through this dreadful event, Smith leavens the account with wacky stories from her childhood and with the challenges—and madcap adventures—of living with an autistic brother. Then she wraps it all in a compelling memoir about the shredding of the social fabric of her young life. You can’t stop reading. Notable quotes “Your memory is your truth. A memory is not to be trusted, but a memoirist relating a memory is trustworthy.” “When I am seven . . . my mother starts her job . . . with the newly introduced housewife shift, three-thirty to ten . . . when older children come home to babysit. From the time I am seven until I go to college, I see my mother once a day for ten seconds (except for weekends) as I run in the door after school while she runs out to catch the city bus. I am responsible for my brother from five after three until five–fifteen, when my father comes home.” Recommended for whom Boomers who lived through this time would appreciate the history; lots to chew on for murder mystery fans; and anyone who has a relative or friend with autism would find it a good read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Peter Herrmann

    Blockbuster book. Most of the reviewers here of this book seem to be women - men are possibly put off by the title. But after reading the cover description, plus the fact that it was on the 'Library Staff Recommends' shelf, pushed me to give a try. Couldn't put it down, from cover to cover. It maybe resonated with me in part because being a contemporary of the author, and having spent my adulthood in Hartford & West Hartford - where this memoir takes place - the public locales and people she men Blockbuster book. Most of the reviewers here of this book seem to be women - men are possibly put off by the title. But after reading the cover description, plus the fact that it was on the 'Library Staff Recommends' shelf, pushed me to give a try. Couldn't put it down, from cover to cover. It maybe resonated with me in part because being a contemporary of the author, and having spent my adulthood in Hartford & West Hartford - where this memoir takes place - the public locales and people she mentions are often familiar to me. And details about her autistic brother gave me further insights about a close relative who is also autistic. Although this book will resonate with most readers, regardless where they live. The author's sharp observations, wry humor, deep sense of reality and human nature, details about so much of her growing up, and voluminous research into the case history, makes this memoir much more than the sum of it's parts. If you're my age, when you read about some of the standards and attitudes of the 1950's, 60's and later - which we often forget ( but at the time took for granted) - you feel how far (in some ways) society has come. Her family were just (as her father said) 'working stiffs', yet you realize how much civilization depends upon such 'ordinary' people who exhibit intelligence, decency, perseverance and zest for life. I'd recommend this book to anybody. Perhaps if the title were different more men would read this. Although the title is apt, based on the impact of the crimes on both the direct victims and indirect victims (of which the author was one). To be clear, though - this is NOT a 'self-pitying victimization' book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    This was another book that I listened to as an audiobook. Girls of Tender Age is an autobiographical book of Mary-Ann's life from childhood into her adult years. It begins in the late 1940's or early 1950's. She grew up in a French-Italian family and does a wonderful job of relating what her childhood was like growing up in a low-income family in Hartford, CT. Her older brother, Tyler, was autistic which she did not realize until a college professor explained it to her. She had grown up thinking This was another book that I listened to as an audiobook. Girls of Tender Age is an autobiographical book of Mary-Ann's life from childhood into her adult years. It begins in the late 1940's or early 1950's. She grew up in a French-Italian family and does a wonderful job of relating what her childhood was like growing up in a low-income family in Hartford, CT. Her older brother, Tyler, was autistic which she did not realize until a college professor explained it to her. She had grown up thinking he was retarded. However, he could read very advanced books and had a personal library of over 2,000 books. In her younger girls, people didn't know about autism but simply assumed such people were retarded when they couldn't control their behaviors. Although her brother's condition had a strong impact on Mary-Ann's life, it did not prevent her from going on to succeed both in college and becoming a productive writer. Throughout the book, she gives the impression of a loving relationship between herself and her brother. Interspersed throughout the novel is the murder of a childhood friend, Irene, which occurred when Mary-Ann was in the 6th grade, and its effect on Mary-Ann's life. She not only describes her friend's murder but gives the background of the man who killed Irene. It was certainly a unique way of writing a memoir and held my attention. However, I would have enjoyed finding out more about Mary-Ann's life as an adult which she gives very few details about. One aspect of this memoir I particularly enjoyed was Mary-Ann's descriptions of both the traditions and attitudes that were prevalent in the 1950's.

  22. 4 out of 5

    EThayer3

    Girls of Tender Age was interesting in a good part because I lived in or around Hartford Ct for quite a few years. Mary-Ann (Mickey as she is known) talks about her childhood, growing up in an area of Hartford that was home to the working class families at that time. Her mother is distant, her father she looks up to, and her brother, Tyler had autism, though nothing was known about autism at the time so he was considered "mentally retarded." Most of the book centers around the horrific assault a Girls of Tender Age was interesting in a good part because I lived in or around Hartford Ct for quite a few years. Mary-Ann (Mickey as she is known) talks about her childhood, growing up in an area of Hartford that was home to the working class families at that time. Her mother is distant, her father she looks up to, and her brother, Tyler had autism, though nothing was known about autism at the time so he was considered "mentally retarded." Most of the book centers around the horrific assault and murder of her childhood friend, Irene Fiederowicz which happened in 1953 when Mickey was 10 years old and subsequent trial of Robert Malm. An interesting side note - A few weeks before young Irene's murder, Patricia D'Allessio, a teenage girl, was assaulted nearby by the same Robert Malm. It was reported to police but they didn't take it seriously, saying the marks on her neck were hickies from her boyfriend, not believing they were left by Malm's hands as he attempted to strangle her with her scarf. After Irene's murder, Patricia's assault was brought back to the front burner and she was instrumental in identifying Malm. At the time she sought the reward money of $3000 but was unsuccessful in obtaining it. Now, almost 70 years later, a bill was passed and earlier this year she was finally awarded the money due her. I wasn't real keen on the style of writing, it is all told in the present tense even though events talk place upwards of 70+ years and there are no quotation marks. Not sure why but for some reason this just made it seem very monotone to me.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    This memoir has so much to offer a reader. The author, recounts her life as a child with honesty and wit, even the more challenging parts including an autistic brother and a detached mother. She slowly begins to weave in details about a criminal and how his life intertwines with her neighborhood and the young girl he kills - seems odd to say but it really all comes together so well. Then the book turns more to her adult self, and how she deals with aging/dying family members and ultimately resea This memoir has so much to offer a reader. The author, recounts her life as a child with honesty and wit, even the more challenging parts including an autistic brother and a detached mother. She slowly begins to weave in details about a criminal and how his life intertwines with her neighborhood and the young girl he kills - seems odd to say but it really all comes together so well. Then the book turns more to her adult self, and how she deals with aging/dying family members and ultimately researches the death of the girl she knew as a child and honors her with remembering her story. Very well written.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Terri Marshall

    4.5 stars rounded up because it is just so well written. She combines amusing, sometimes devastating stories of her crazy childhood (and it definitely was) with the horrifying details of her friend's murder and the serial killer who did it, and somehow it works. The chapters towards the end of the book about dealing with her older brother's autism when she became his main support system were especially touching. But the details on the events leading up to her friend Irene's murder and it's effec 4.5 stars rounded up because it is just so well written. She combines amusing, sometimes devastating stories of her crazy childhood (and it definitely was) with the horrifying details of her friend's murder and the serial killer who did it, and somehow it works. The chapters towards the end of the book about dealing with her older brother's autism when she became his main support system were especially touching. But the details on the events leading up to her friend Irene's murder and it's effect on Irene's family, especially her brother Fred, and on the writer herself were pure heartbreak. Mary-Ann Tirone Smith, thank you for such an engrossing reading experience.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    This book has been sitting on my home bookshelf for years. I always passed it by. Once I remember reading a page or two and putting it back, thinking it just didn't grab me. Well, this time I gave it more of a chance and wow, am I glad that I did! It is a wonderful, heartfelt memoir. Full of interesting facts of a long ago murder and how it affected the author. And, also the author's take on growing up with an autistic brother. Truly riveting! And, what a wonderful person Mary-Ann Tirone Smith is This book has been sitting on my home bookshelf for years. I always passed it by. Once I remember reading a page or two and putting it back, thinking it just didn't grab me. Well, this time I gave it more of a chance and wow, am I glad that I did! It is a wonderful, heartfelt memoir. Full of interesting facts of a long ago murder and how it affected the author. And, also the author's take on growing up with an autistic brother. Truly riveting! And, what a wonderful person Mary-Ann Tirone Smith is....taking care of all members of her family with a devotion and love that is to be admired.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Pinkerton

    I live about 10 minutes from Mary Ann's childhood neighborhood so reading this tale of her youth and the events that took place was both fascinating and horrifying. Though I couldn't relate to the time period of her youth, I appreciated the vivid descriptions and details of her family and their lives. The author has a unique style of writing with short sentences and free flowing thoughts making this memoir a great page-turner. I live about 10 minutes from Mary Ann's childhood neighborhood so reading this tale of her youth and the events that took place was both fascinating and horrifying. Though I couldn't relate to the time period of her youth, I appreciated the vivid descriptions and details of her family and their lives. The author has a unique style of writing with short sentences and free flowing thoughts making this memoir a great page-turner.

  27. 5 out of 5

    T

    This book could have been three separate books, and sometimes felt like it was. The Bob Malm plotline was the most interesting for me, but also read like a court report. So many facts and details that got in the way of actual storytelling. The tense and perspective shifts annoyed me (why are pictures captioned “Mickey...” when the book is written in first person??) I wish this woman had a better editor.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    This is an excellent and engrossing true crime/memoir. Tirone Smith vividly recalls her 1950s Hartford, CT childhood in alternating chapters with the life of a child predator who killed her fifth grade classmate. It's a story about her close-knit extended family, her autistic brother (before they knew what autism was), and the darkest fears of childhood. A re-read for me, this is our November selection for the Mystery Book Discussion group. This is an excellent and engrossing true crime/memoir. Tirone Smith vividly recalls her 1950s Hartford, CT childhood in alternating chapters with the life of a child predator who killed her fifth grade classmate. It's a story about her close-knit extended family, her autistic brother (before they knew what autism was), and the darkest fears of childhood. A re-read for me, this is our November selection for the Mystery Book Discussion group.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    Ms. Tirone has written an excellent story filled with humor, sorrow and real lives of her era! I am familiar with the area in Hartford and appreciated the remembrances of times gone by during my childhood. You will not regret reading this book!!! Excellent read of life’s ups and downs and the skills we developed to handle them. Will be reading her other books. Excellent, up there with The Book Thief.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne Skelly

    This beautiful memoir is riveting,suspenseful and spellbinding. The author shares a lot of hard truths about her life. Larger than the sum of its parts, this book illustrates a social class as it recounts a tangeleg story of family and crime. This novel encompasess the murder of a schoolmate by a pedophile and a life with a brother who suffers from autism.

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