Saturday, November 12, 2011

Review: Hoopi Shoopi Donna

Set in a Polish-American community in western Massachusetts, this novel follows Milewski as she tries to come to terms with her father. As a child Donna was the apple of her father's eye. When her parents adopt a young cousin from Poland Donna's place in the family is eclipsed by younger, more Polish Betty. An unfortunate car accident cements this. Donna is blamed for the accident, and her new sister Betty becomes everyone's favorite. While Betty prospers Donna fades, and stews about her broken family.

Adulthood finds Betty in medical school and Donna working in a tampon factory, unable to create any kind of lasting relationship with a man. To find her way out Donna has to return to one of her childhood loves: polka music.

Parts of this book seemed overdone. By the end of the narrative Betty's accomplishments start to seem ridiculous. She doesn't quite cure cancer or create world peace, but she comes close. Donna has a tendency to get annoying at times. In fact, there were times I wanted to smack her. The book's strength is definitely in its vibrant description of a Polish-American community. I had no idea that polka music was still so prominent anywhere. The tensions between those born in Poland and those born in the US was were intriguing. Read this book for the setting, not necessarily for the characters.

Suzanne Strempek Shea, Hoopi Shoopi Donna (Washington Square, 1997) ISBN: 0671535455

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