THE SWEETHEART, by Angelina Mirabella, landed on my doorstep unannounced. The nice publishing people at Simon & Schuster were hoping I would enjoy it. And I did. I really did!
This is not a topic I would naturally be drawn to. But it works here. In 1953 professional lady wrestling had a big following. The story of THE SWEETHEART is the story of one young woman’s search for her identity in an unconventional way.
Leonie Putzkammer is living in Philadelphia with her widowed father. She’s working as a waitress to help make ends meet. With her extreme tallness and her hourglass figure, she’s a magnet for men. One day she meets a man who is a wrestling promoter, and the rest is history.
Leonie feels stifled in the row house she’s been living in with her father. She’s desperate to make something of herself. And off she goes to Florida to the school for lady grappling. Leonie becomes Gorgeous Gwen Davies and is partnered with fearsome Screaming Mimi Hollander. This is not a career for the faint of heart.
Enter love interest Spider McGee who is working his way to becoming the junior lightweight champ. You now have a potent cocktail for discovery. Gwen becomes the Sweetheart of the circuit and her life begins changing so quickly it makes her head spin.
This coming of age novel is provocatively written with prose that packs punches. It’s daring and unique. I was instantly pulled into Leonie’s story. And the choices she is forced to make only made her more endearing to me.
I grew up in the sixties and missed this era, but, the sense of place is stellar. I loved that even though this is much about wrestling, it does not read like a book about wrestling. It is about Leonie, Gwen, The Sweetheart, and how she comes to find herself.
I have to thank Simon & Schuster for sending me this fine story. What a great story for discussion!