two words: refreshing innocence
Margaret is innocent in her pubescence, before competition with other girls, one in particular who lies and cheats, takes hold. She gets sucked-in for a while and loses some of her confidence, but her ‘You talkin’ to me?’ eyebrow is intact, so I suspect she’ll be okay, and in the end she is.
Ultimately, as the title suggests, this book isn’t about puberty; it’s a discourse on personal religion.
Margaret is blissfully ignorant in the no-religion cocoon her parents create for her. She has an intuitive and independent relationship with god and she is happy chatting away in her alone-time with an ethereal entity of whose proportions only she knows – maybe it’s a teapot, or a flying spaghetti monster. Her parents’ euphemistic and pusillanimous ‘Holiday Greetings’ and ‘December Tradition Gifts’, however, are inadequate in buffering the Jewish/Christian tug-a-war raging between her maternal and paternal grand-parents, or placating the religious expectations of her peers.
To silence the noise blocking her spontaneous god tentacles, Margaret decides to explore, against her parents’ wishes, what her friends and grand-parents are all yapping about. She looks for god in temple and church, but finds she only feels god when she’s alone. Everything else, the hats, the singing, the pomp and ceremony, is a distraction.
The battle for Margaret’s soul still rages on and comes to a head when the grand-parents show up. All the adults, including her parents, fail Margaret in ensuing hostile exchanges. They neglect to notice that the rope being pulled in this tug-a-war is a twelve year old girl. In an act of spite and defiance, she vows to never speak to god again.
Nature comes to the rescue. She gets her first period, and knowing that god wouldn’t miss such a momentous occasion, she seamlessly resumes chatting away with her spaghetti monster and is happy again. As she says,
As long as she loves me and I love her, what difference does religion make?
She has had it right all along, as children often do.
I really enjoyed reading Judy Blume’s Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret and will be passing it on to my own little girl. The narration rings true and I find myself reliving all my own ‘firsts’. Which prepubescent girl hasn’t chanted, ‘I must, I must, I must increase my bust’? It is heart-warming and a welcome respite from the weight of some of the other novels I’m reading.
i’m in here–sia
Note to Briony: This is what little girls should be getting up to, not accusing innocent people of heinous crimes!