River Town Girl: A Memoir is about growing up in a small, working-class town on the Hudson River in the 1950s, '60s, and early '70s. One mile away across the river is New York City, but it might just as well be a thousand miles away. The town, Edgewater, has 4,000 people. Cut off by the river, which runs along it on the east, and the Palisades cliffs, which run along it on the west, it is rich in eccentric characters, and its life is shaped by the rhythms of the Hudson. The town is fertile ground for the delights and the powers of story telling. Today that version of the town is gone, buried under New Jersey's high-rise Gold Coast.
This story is about how a child of the 1950s becomes an adolescent of the 1960s and gradually but finally finds the strength to finish growing up. A bookish only child, the power of words to make sense of the world is life saving for her. In her books as a child and in her mother's stories and her father's journals, she comes to know a self both damaged and resilient. Later stories told in psychotherapy make sense of the overwhelming anxiety that threatens her.
The author treats memory as more episodic and fluctuating than traditional narratives do. Written in prose, poetry, lists, fragments, and dialogue and in both facts and imaginings, this patchwork creates a complex, coming-of-age story about a girl, a family, a town, a river, and a time now gone.