Going on Nine

Going on Nine

“Charming, engaging, and bursting with colorful characters.”

—Author Kelly O’Connor McNees

My second novel, Going on Nine, is about a young girl’s summer-long search for a better family than her own wonderful family. It’s about the soul-searching quest for belonging and the wise perspective that age confers. And it’s about the kind of childhood vacations from school that girls and boys used to have.

The heroine of the story is Grace Mitchell, whose journey of discovery takes place in the summer of 1956, when she is eight, going on nine.

Grace’s childhood world is Thistle Way, a deceptively sleepy enclave in a suburb of St. Louis peopled with characters in turning-point situations.

Going on Nine might seem like a children’s book, but it isn’t. Yes, the bulk of the story is narrated in real time by young Grace, in her unique voice. But each chapter is introduced and concluded with perceptive hindsight by the adult Grace, looking back on her girlhood after a family tragedy decades later.

Here’s part of the Prologue:

My friends and I had a thousand ways to fill a summer day. Released from the obligations and rote recitations of school, we entertained ourselves for long stretches of time with rudimentary equipment and minimal supervision. We nailed boards to fissured oak trees, constructing ramshackle platforms that ac¬corded us bird’s-eye views. We spread blankets in the shade and brought out cookies and jugs of iced lemonade. We knelt on bald dirt by the fence lines, shoveling Missouri clay into mountains, valleys, and winding canals. We played tag and hide-and-seek across eight back yards, hop¬scotch on driveways, and kickball in the street.

We crawled through garage windows and helped ourselves to popsicles in chest freezers humming in the darkness, we also helped ourselves to penny candy up at Snyder’s Five & Dime from boxes Mrs. Snyder had placed conveniently near the door so our petty thievery would not disrupt his paying customers. We were scabby and sweaty, chigger-bit at the waist, and mosquito-bit everywhere else. We didn’t care. It was summer.

In the late afternoon, parents stood on front stoops and rang, clanged, chimed, and whistled us home for dinner.
Each child recognized his or her distinct summons—the sound that meant a meatloaf was nicely brown and crusty or a tuna noodle casserole was bubbling under a topping of crumbled chips.

In the summer the story takes place, the summer of 1956, Grace will race to a hospital in a shiny new Plymouth Belvedere and hunker in the back of a rattletrap vegetable truck. She’ll crawl into a crumbling tunnel, dress up with a prom queen, keep vigil in the bedroom of a molestation victim, lose a best friend and two mortal enemies, keep family secrets, and hold an old woman’s life in the palm of her hand.

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