Title: St. Ursula’s Girls Against the Atomic Bomb
Author: Valerie Hurley
Length: 252 pgs
Summary: So. This book is interesting. St Ursula’s Girls Against the Atomic Bomb by Valerie Hurley is about Raine Rassaby, a free-spirited high school girl who is determined to be a heroine and save the world from nuclear missiles and other dangerous horrible things like the military. Her mother is a concert violinist and her father is a famous astrologist; her late grandmother converted to Judaism so she thinks she’s Jewish even though both of her parents are Catholic. She’s in love with the Slovakian Jewish gardener, and her Catholic school guidance teacher, who has his own problems, lives next door. The book starts crazy, and it doesn’t seem to come to any sort of real resolution, in the way that a typical romance would, which is why I’ve labeled this book as simply fiction, it almost asks to be literary fiction.
pg 44 – When Raine told her about her fears, Vikey said, “Fear isn’t something to be gotten rid of. It’s something real and human, something to pay attention to. Drunks are fearless but that doesn’t make them courageous. Fear is a signal, to be honored and listened to. It was proper for us to be afraid of the Nazis and the Hlinka Guard and not berate ourselves for our fears.”
pg 46 – “Raine, please–you’re working yourself into a froth. Can you think a calming thought?”
“I can try. But there might be a mushroom cloud in it.”
pg 63 – “Adults always act like they’re Gepetto, and they’re afraid someone else is going to breathe life into Pinocchio.”
pg 69 – After lunch, he wanted to smooth his hands down over Frieda’s sun-warmed hair. He longed to put his arm around her and lead her into their bedroom and share everything he was thinking with her and ask her a lot of questions and make love to her. Instead, he sat gazing out the window, listening to Mrs. Rassaby running through the scales on her violin. He watched a flock of grosbeaks fly into the garden and peck at the withered sunflowers. Robins mated for life. But he was sure they did not return to the nest every night with tales to tell their mate of a dazzling peacock.
pg 76 – “There’s a part of me that’s very weak and doesn’t know much and is scared of everything,” she said. “But under it is something else, this strong person who believes in the power of love and thinks human beings can squirm out of their predicaments. One layer is full of fear and one layer is full of belief. Do you ever feel like that?”
“Of course. It’s the human condition.”
pg 103 – “Eventually, I got kind of fixated on Patty, and I loved Michael’s white shirts and his turquoise eyes, but then something sad happened. One day I was sitting on a bench on Broadway feeding chocolate-covered raisins to the pigeons, and I saw Michael and Patty walking together up Broadway. I stood up and stared at them. They weren’t holding hands, but everyone once in a while, they’d bump shoulders. They didn’t see me or anyone else–they only saw each other–and it was their obliviousness that was so painful to watch because I wanted so much to have that kind of obliviousness with somebody. I walked home like I was sleep-walking and went up the stairs to my bedroom and climbed into bed and felt how completely separate I was from everyone and everything.”
“So were you in love with this girl?”
“I guess I was doing what all girls do–shopping for a woman to become.”
pg 141 – I have never been able to figure out if America is a bunch of promises we don’t intend to keep, or if it is sometihng astonishingly beautiful that we have carried in our hearts from another land. Justice, Liberty, Freedom, Equality, Opportunity, and the Pursuit of Happiness. These are dreams. They’re ideas. […] I feel it is up to my generation to read Common Sense and go Whoa, Tonto! Since when has America been about making bombs and making money?
Why should you read this book?
For the pure eccentricity of the characters. Raine is so eccentric she almost seems unbelievable, except that I’ve met people like her before. Al, her guidance counselor, provides a complement because he seems so normal it almost hurts to read about him. The book was well-written, the characters were faithfully executed, and, I’m sad to say, I forgot all of their names except for Raine as soon as I closed the book. So, if you’re planning on reading this book, take heart in Raine and her eccentricities; learn from her implementation if you have a similar character and aren’t sure how to write about him/her. Just be careful, because when I finished this book, I felt no different from when I first picked it up. I believe there isn’t anything more dangerous to a writer than to have a reader feel apathetic toward your work.