Girls of Tender Age

A Memoir

Girls of Tender Age

With beauty, power, and remarkable wit, Mary-Ann Tirone Smith interweaves a bittersweet portrait of growing up among the working stiffs of 1950s Hartford, Connecticut, with the chilling progress of a serial pedophile who threatens to shatter her small town's innocence. In Girls of Tender Age, Smith lovingly evokes the jubilance and chaos of life in her extended French-Italian family and the challenges of living with her brother Tyler, an autistic at a time before anyone knew what that meant. Hanging over Smith's rough-and-tumble youth is the shadow of the approaching killer who forever alters the landscape of her childhood.
  • Free Press | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743279789 | 
  • January 2007
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Mary-Ann Tirone Smith: Girls of Tender Age

Mary-Ann Tirone Smith evokes the jubilance and chaos of her French-Italian family in post-World War II Connecticut.

Reading Group Guide

Girls of Tender Age Reading Group Guide
Written with great humor and tenderness, Girls of Tender Age combines an intimate family memoir with the tale of a community plagued by a horrifying crime. Mary-Ann Tirone Smith's Hartford neighborhood is small-town America, where everyone's door is unlocked and everything is within walking distance. Her loving family is peopled with memorable characters, but Smith's household was also "different" because her older brother, Tyler, was autistic before anyone knew what that meant. Unable to bear noise of any kind, Tyler was Mary-Ann's real-life Boo Radley.
Hanging over Smith's family is the sinister shadow of an approaching serial killer. The menacing Bob Malm lurks throughout this joyous and chaotic family portrait, and the havoc he unleashes when the paths of innocence and evil cross one early December evening in 1953 forever alters the landscape of Smith's childhood.
Reading group discussion questions
1. Mary-Ann's father's role as primary caretaker is established early in her life. On page 10 she tells the story of waking up too late to see her father before he goes to work. She cries, knowing that missing him "means a day without any attention whatsoever." What is her mother's reaction to Mary-Ann's tears? How do the parents' actions throughout the book reinforce your early impressions of them? Does either of them ever change? Does the way that Mary-Ann relates to them ever change?
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Articles About This Book


Posted on Off the Shelf

Posted by Off the Shelf Staff

Off the Shelfwas lucky enough to get a review from New York literary agent, Molly Friedrich, about a book she loves that also happens to be one she represented. “It’s true that I am Mary-Ann Tirone Smith’s literary agent, but it is also true that...

About the Author

Mary-Ann Tirone Smith
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Mary-Ann Tirone Smith

Mary-Ann Tirone Smith is the author of eight novels. She has lived all her life in Connecticut, except for two years when she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon.