Zoë Heller's Bookshelf
By Carson McCullers
The heroine of this excellent, not-quite-coming-of-age novel is 12-year-old Frankie Adams, a moody tomboy, stuck in a tiny Southern town, who fantasizes that she can escape the confines of childhood and of home by running away with her brother and his new wife: "At last she knew just who she was and understood where she was going. She loved her brother and the bride and she was a member of the wedding. The three of them would go into the world and they would always be together." Generally speaking, I don't look to books to address the particulars of my personal experience, but I happened to be 12 myself when I first picked this novel off my uncle's shelf. The thrill of recognition was intoxicating. It felt as if someone had read my rather hysterical journal and transformed it into lucid literary prose. Years later, when my first daughter was born, I named her Frankie in McCullers's honor.