Pitch Uncertain: A Mid-Century Middle Daughter Finds Her Voice

Maisie Houghton, TidePool (www.tidepoolpress.com), $24.95 (220p) ISBN 978-0-9755557-6-7
Houghton, née Kinnicutt, grew up the middle of three girls in an East Coast family and, in 15 linked essays, now recounts her early life, from her ‘40s childhood to her ‘60s wedding and Radcliffe graduation, painting a portrait of a family unhappy in its very own way. The love between her steady, practical mother and freewheeling, mostly absent father withered early. He was charming but mercurial, and her overworked mother, Sybil, was plagued by sadness. The family is awash in intriguing connections, to J.P. Morgan, author Elizabeth Etnier, artist Gardner Cox, and others. Houghton writes best when recounting a scene; her details are evocative, the language lilting: "Life there was the trick of peeling a peach in one long silky strip." Her mother's sadness and Houghton's reserved nature make this a heavy read at times, resulting in the literary equivalent of the inexact pitch attributed to the author as a young girl by her music teacher. Yet the fleeting beauty of Houghton's prose makes this detailed portrait of an era a worthy read. Photos. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 01/24/2011
Release date: 12/01/2010
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