Philadelphia teacher and author Lorie Maher recently published her debut novel, "Rittenhouse Square Rebels," which she calls a "fairytale for adults and young adults alike." Below is a review published by Joe Infantino, an intern with some of The Mercury's sister papers, The Delaware County News Network, on August 29. Click here to see that article on the Delaware county News Network site.
I'm republishing the article here because Maher has graciously provided to me a review copy of her book that I'd like to pass along to a reader.
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Upper Darby High School graduate
writes her first novel
By Joe Infantino
The desires to fit in and to find love are two aspirations not unknown to Lorie Maher, first-time author of “Rittenhouse Square Rebels.”
The novel, which Maher spent nearly four years writing, stars a young and troubled eighth-grade girl, Christina Jackman. Her father, a stereotypical capitalist and local advertising guru raises her with the help of a cruel and impatient housekeeper, whom together, stunt her childhood, so much so, she is repeatedly kicked out of school. Alone in the world and in a quest to find her mother, Jackman learns about falling in love and rebelling against the status quo.
Maher grew up in Drexel Hill and is a graduate of Upper Darby High School. Her mother, who once owned a children’s clothes store in the Pilgrim Garden Shopping Center in Drexel Hill, was Maher’s greatest inspiration as a child. Today, Maher teaches English to seventh and eighth-grade students at Kirkbride Elementary School in Philadelphia.
Over the years, Maher has written short unpublished pieces, shown only to her family, some friends and childhood classmates. Through reading, she grew to love writing and pursued creative fiction writing at the University of Pittsburgh. Maher said she was drawn to fiction because of the freedom to create characters and enthralling stories.
The narrator, loosely based off of Maher as a child, shares a love for animals with Maher’s younger self. Her familiarity with Rittenhouse Square Park in her hometown, Philadelphia, sets the stage for what Maher calls a “funny spoof” of one social class pinned against the other. On one side of the park are the fancy dogs that walk there everyday and on the other side sit the ordinary dogs.
Although characters in the novel were based off of Maher’s former classmates, she spun their specific traits into unique characters, unrecognizable to the untrained eye.
“I doubt it would be that clear because they are fictional,” she said referring to her characters. “I used specific personalities that I have encountered in my life but then I changed things enough so that they would be entirely different people.”
In a race against the clock, the narrator has only her summer vacation to find her mother and to learn what is not taught in school: love and rebellion. One day she spots a curiously intriguing man in the Rittenhouse Square Park. She imagines many scenarios with him, but before she can muster the courage to act, summer ends and it is too late to do anything about it.
“A lot of people look back on things and think ‘why didn’t it happen like this?’ “ Maher said. “In my story, time becomes a dark shadow on Christina Jackman.”
Capitalism is another theme in the novel, but rather than using her writing to take a stance on the issue, Maher simply wanted to remind readers of the omnipresence of greed.
“I wanted to paint an entertaining, vivid portrait of people’s lives in my novel,” Maher said. “Christina Jackman’s uncle and father are ‘off the wall’ money hungry and narcissistic and some might think they’re fools, but I definitely wanted to affect readers’ emotions so that they have their own opinions about these people.”
At the end of each journey is a reward and while the book is newly on the market, Maher hopes to gain a strong readership and ultimately wants critiques so she can improve her writing. Maher recently received a good luck e-mail from Danielle Steel, an author that she followed as a student and someone that she frequently found herself looking up to.
“I feel like my life has change because I have gotten involved with going to these writers events,” Maher said. “It’s been great being able to meet other writers and to learn from them.”
Book summary (from the author):
Christina Jackman was a spoiled, rich girl who lives in the richest part of Philadelphia, Rittenhouse Square. Because of her family, no one likes her at school. In fact, Christina gets into a lot of trouble at school-so much that she has been repeatedly kicked out! Now she's finally about to finish eighth grade.
She lives with her father - a local king of advertising - and a housekeeper, Ingrid Zeimer. Mrs. Zeimer is terrible; cruel, mean, and impatient. Christina's Uncle Harry was no better. She suspects he didn't even like her-which is okay, since she doesn't like him either. Christina is all alone in the world with no one to turn to and no one to love-until one day when she begins to ask questions about her mother.
What happened to her mother? Why did her mother leave her father? Where is her mother now? Christina's father doesn't respond so Christina decides to seek top-secret information herself. With the help of her detective friend, Brian Parks, Christina sets out to find her long-lost mom. Along the way, she learns about falling in love, and risking everything to be a rebel!
Download/purchase the e-book of "Rittenhouse Square Rebels" here.
About the author:
Maher grew up in Drexel Hill and attended Upper Darby High School. She resides in Philadelphia.