Friday, May 4, 2007

"Promise Not to Tell"

Jennifer McMahon's debut novel is Promise Not to Tell.

She applied the "page 69 test" to the book and reported the following:
I was happy to discover that page 69 had my favorite character, Del Griswold aka the Potato Girl, on it. In this passage, it’s 1971 in rural Vermont, and Del and Kate (two misfit fifth graders) have been spying on two women baking bread at the commune Kate lives on. Del’s never been to the commune and they’ve snuck up to spy from the woods so that Kate can prove that she really does live in a tepee. As they crouch, listening to commune members Doe and Mimi bake bread, they learn that Doe has been lying to everyone about who the father of her new baby really is.

“Let’s go,” I whispered to Del, but she didn’t respond. Curious as I was, I didn’t want to hear anymore. New Hope wasn’t the kind of place where people kept secrets and I found a certain easy comfort in that. Everyone shared everything during the circle meetings – all the women even shared when they had their periods (although they referred to it as their “moon time”).

I got up from my crouched position slowly and gently tugged at Del’s arm. She stayed put.

“Look at her titties,” Del hissed. “They hang down to her belly! Don’t hippies know about bras?”

“I’m going with or without you. I don’t want to get caught,” I whispered, feeling strangely like a trespasser outside my own home. Del just stared at Doe and Mimi as if they were some kind of exotic circus animals – peacocks or dancing bears. I turned and started to make my way back down the path, careful not to make too much noise stepping on sticks and dry leaves. I picked my feet up high and watched where I stepped.

In a minute, I heard footsteps behind me, as Del galloped up and grabbed my shoulders.

“Boo,” she whispered. “You’re walkin’ like you got a load your pants.”

I like this passage because it gives a taste of the dynamic between Kate and Del, and their relationship is really at the heart of the book. I also like the reference to secrets. In Promise Not to Tell, everyone has a secret, and keeping secrets becomes a crucial test of Kate’s loyalty to Del both before and after her death. On the other hand, this is a “quiet” page, not representative of the more spooky or suspenseful aspects of the story.
Browse inside Promise Not to Tell for an excerpt or read a briefer excerpt at Jennifer McMahon's website.

Visit McMahon's MySpace page and the group blog, "The Debutante Ball."

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue