Tuesday 15 June 2021

Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau BLOG TOUR @JessicaAnyaBlau @Harper360UK @RandomTTours #MaryJane #BookReview


In 1970s Baltimore, fourteen-year-old Mary Jane loves cooking with her mother, singing in her church choir, and enjoying her family's subscription to the Broadway Showtunes of the Month record club. Shy, quiet, and bookish, she's glad when she lands a summer job as a nanny for the daughter of a local doctor. A respectable job, Mary Jane's mother says. In a respectable house.

The house may look respectable on the outside, but inside it's a literal and figurative mess: clutter on every surface, Impeachment: Now More Than Ever bumper stickers on the doors, cereal and takeout for dinner. And even more troublesome (were Mary Jane's mother to know, which she does not): the doctor is a psychiatrist who has cleared his summer for one important job--helping a famous rock star dry out. A week after Mary Jane starts, the rock star and his movie star wife move in.

Over the course of the summer, Mary Jane introduces her new household to crisply ironed clothes and a family dinner schedule, and has a front-row seat to a liberal world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll (not to mention group therapy). Caught between the lifestyle she's always known and the future she's only just realized is possible, Mary Jane will arrive at September with a new idea about what she wants out of life, and what kind of person she's going to be.

Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau was published by Custom House, an imprint of Harper Collins on 27 May 2021, managed by Harper360 in the UK. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour.

I have no doubt that Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau will be in my list of Top Books of this year. I started reading this book as I set off on a train journey down to London last Friday, and finished it as I arrived back at my home station that same night. Half of the book on the outward journey, the remaining part on my way home. 

The reader is expertly transported to 1970s Baltimore, during a hazy sunny Summer, mixing with a complex and colourful set of characters who will steal their heart. I was entranced as Mary Jane, a fourteen year old girl who has led a sheltered and protected life within a wealthy neighbourhood discovers that life, and family, are far more than keeping the house clean, the cupboards stocked and food on the table for the man of the house. She finds that there's more to music and singing than church songs and showtime bands and she realises that it's OK to be yourself, to wear your shorts above the knee and to shout and raise your voice. It's OK to love and to be loved. 

Mary Jane's parents are pleased when she gets a job as a summer nanny for Dr Cone and his wife. She will care for young Izzy Cone.  After all, he's a doctor, what could go wrong? When Mary Jane arrives at their house it is the total chaos and the noise that shocks her at first. There is 'stuff' everywhere, and every family member seems to SHOUT. However, she also discovers that this doesn't mean that they are a bad, or uncaring, it just means that they are different.

Over the summer Mary Jane grows so much. Whilst bringing a little order and structure into the Cone household is a great thing, she is also able to explore her own self. She sees things, and hears things that shock her at first. There's no way she can let her parents know about the teeny-tiny shorts she wears when she's at the Cones' place; her mother cannot be allowed to discover that sometimes Izzy doesn't bathe or wash her hair for days; and she can never ever mention the fact that Dr Cone's latest patient has moved in. A rock-star heroin addict and his superstar TV actress wife would be the very last people on earth that Mary Jane would be allowed to mix with. 

However Mary Jane both learns and she teaches. Her ability to create a decent meal and keep order in the house, her willingness to overlook the occasional naked body and her overwhelming love for Izzy make her invaluable, but she also becomes one of the family. She teaches them about structure, they teach her about love and about the world outside of the streets and church that she's known all of her life. 

This is a beautiful and wonderful novel and I adored every page. I loved Mary Jane's journey, her innocence and trust, her growth and her questions. It was most certainly a two way street though as Mary Jane taught the adults so much too. Theirs was such an equal relationship, it was joyful to watch unravel. 

The author touches on social issues throughout the novel, with US politics getting a mention and Mary Jane's sudden realisation that whilst she's known the Black staff at her parents' country club for most of her life, they are treated differently to her, and she questions that. It's a difficult thing for Mary Jane to realise; the bias and prejudice around her that her parents have no qualms about and she becomes braver as the summer goes on, asking awkward questions of her parents who, in the past, she has trusted to treat her and others in the right way. 

Full of sunshine, love, music and utter joy, Mary Jane is a stunning read that I would highly recommend. 

Jessica Anya Blau is the author of US bestselling novel The Summer of Naked Swim Parties and
three other critically acclaimed novels, most recently The Trouble With Lexie. 

Her novels have been recommended and featured on CNN, NPR, The Today Show and in Vanity Fair, Cosmo, O Magazine, and many other US magazines and newspapers.

Twitter @JessicaAnyaBlau

Instagram @jessicaanyablau


Launched in January 2014, Harper360 is HarperCollins’ successful international
publishing programme.

Harper360 UK provides a strong and harmonious global distribution across all genres and formats from HarperCollins global companies in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and India. Harper360 authors include Jessica Simpson, Curtis Jackson (50 Cent), Cicely Tyson, David Mamet, Donna Hay, Mark Manson, Gary Vaynerchuck, Mina Lima and Julie Murphy.

Twitter @Harper360UK

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