Title: 84 Ribbons
Author: Paddy Eger
Genre: Young Adult, Coming-of-Age
Number of Pages: 346
Summary: The Debut novel by award-winning author Paddy Eger
A young dancer's realizes her life long dream, if only for a while.
Seventeen year old Marta Selbryth realizes her dream of becoming a professional dancer when the Intermountain Ballet Company in Billings, Montana invites her to join their 1957 season. As Marta's new life unfolds, she must learn to face not only the successes of dancing in the corps de ballet, but the challenges and setbacks that might crush the dream she's had for so long.
After a couple of mishaps, Marta settles into life in a boarding house located near the ballet company. Her landlady, Mrs. B., is friendly, reduces her rent when Marta's offers to bake for the boarders and later allows her to use the basement as a practice studio. The two male boarders are supportive; Carol, a fellow boarder, ignores her.
Marta spends her free time practicing when she's not spending time with her new friends Lynne and Bartley, her fellow corps dancers. Their time together becomes an important lifeline through their first year.
Madame Cosper, the artistic director, is a demanding woman. Marta begins their association poorly when she makes a disastrous choice. Expecting expulsion, Marta receives a second chance in the form of dancing the unpopular character roles during the fall and winter performances. Marta determines to dance every role with confidence in hopes of proving to Madame that she's up for every challenge.
Steve, a young college man and a reporter, spots Marta when he's assigned to write an article about ballet for the local paper. He's attracted to her and begins his pursuit. Over the months ahead, he becomes her tour guide of the area and attempts to convince Marta to be his girl. But her steadfast focus is ballet and some of her adventures with him lead to problems with Madame Cosper.
Shortly after Christmas, everything changes for Marta, Bartley and Steve. Significant events permanently influence their lives. Each must deal with exhilaration and heartbreak as well as frustration and changes that test their ability to cope.
84 Ribbons is an alluring story about the roller coaster known as life and the struggle to find that special niche that ends in happiness.
Marta is a ballerina and has been dancing since she was a little girl. She has dreamed of the chance to dance as a professional. Now, at the age of 17 she is given the opportunity of a lifetime, she has been selected to travel to Billings, MN to dance with the Intermountain Ballet Company. Marta is eager and nervous as she begins the next chapter of her life. Marta finds a place to live, begins her rigorous dance practices, meets a handsome journalist, and makes two new best friends. Her life seems to be unfolding better than she had hoped. But, life has a funny way of taking it's own path and Marta soon discovers that the best laid plans don't often end the way we had hoped. Will she ever earn the 84 ribbons she longs for?
84 Ribbons is a well written coming-of-age story that delves into the demanding world of dancers. Set in the 1950's, readers learn of the struggles dancers face to stay on top, the stress they encounter in being chosen for roles, and the often times unhealthy self-images they develop of themselves as they strive to achieve perfection. I have never danced, nor do I know much about the ballet, but I was immediately drawn to Marta and her struggles to achieve her dream. Paddy Eger has a gift and the rhythm of her story elegantly flows across the pages just as a beautiful ballerina flows across the stage. I like the realism of the story, in that life is filled with disappointment, but the story also reminds us that we have a choice and we don't have to let failure cloud our future. As Marta eventually learns, the show must go on.
I highly recommend picking up a copy the the young adult story, 84 Ribbons. Available on Amazon.