If I could go back and re-see and re-live everything I’ve done and experienced in my life, how different would it be the second time around? How would the years influence my perspective? My reactions? My decisions?
How does age influence the way we see the world and the ways in which we live our lives?
Catherine Fitzpatrick’s Going on Nine explores all of these questions in one of the most unique ways possible. The novel follows Grace Mitchell, an 8-year-old girl living in St. Louis in the 1950’s. While the stories of Grace’s adventures through life are colorful, charming and written in vibrant prose, this book departs from the norm in that it’s protagonist is not the most important aspect of the story. Rather, it is her point of view that takes center stage. The novel is narrated entirely by Grace, but her voice alternates between that of her 8-year-old self (the self experiencing the story) and her self as a grown woman (offering reflections on the narrative).
The story itself exquisitely brings to life what it meant to grow up during one of the greatest times of change in America. Genny Zak Kieley, the author of Green Stamps to Hot Pants: Growing up in the 50’s & 60’s really summed it up well when she said: “Catherine paints a wonderful picture of the 1950’s though the charm of Grace MItchell’s childhood. The wonder of this little girl is that she learns empathy for others through hard lessons. The language, attitudes, and news of the times speckled throughout the story make the era come alive.”
But, like I said, it’s not the story, the plot line, or even the irresistible main character that makes this novel so unique. It’s the perspective through which it’s told. The dueling narration offers an exploration into how aging changes us. And not in the anti-aging-lotion-commercial sort of way. But rather, in the ways that perspective changes the way we think and the way we perceive the world and the people around us. This novel is about recognizing the innocence of youth and the wisdom of age. It’s about understanding that we can only live our life once. And that the things we learn in retrospect can only affect that ways in which we move forward: the past has been written. That part is non-negotiable. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take what we’ve learned and apply it moving forward.
I think that this novel is about history. It’s about being able to look back at what has happened in our lives and take even the seediest parts and turning them into something meaningful. Going on Nine is about learning. And adapting. And changing. It’s about all the things that makes us, us.
Going on Nine is a fantastic read, and we absolutely recommend that you pick up a copy!