Selling Pencils, and Charlie by Penny Perry, Book Review by Saloua Ben Amor
Penny Perry's novel, Selling Pencils, and Charlie (Garden Oak Press, 2020), speaks about feminism, love, romance and even religion. It is really hard to put down. It keeps you hooked thanks to the brisk dialogues and the humorous, brave narrator, Pamela Carey. Perry captures a unique time in American life; the early 1960s.
The language she employs is loaded with natural imagery that appeals to the reader’s senses. It, also, embarks the reader on a journey that has the power to transform women’s lives and the world around them.
Perry’s well-written story is superbly touching because of its relatable protagonist. A woman whose life got upside down and her dream of becoming a professor was put off due to love and marriage. Perry portrays elegantly the heroine's inner conflict and the painful struggle to find her lost identity. Her journey is fraught with poignant insights. She finds out that being married to
the person she loves cannot offer her self-sufficiency owing to her passion for literature which cannot be extinguished. She ends up learning how to be a "baseball wife."
Perry graphically depicts the expectations which are thrust upon women in the early 1960s; fulfillment for women can be found in marriage and housewifery and that women are seen as natural nurtures striving to fill in the missing pieces for their husbands, fathers, and their own.
This novel acts as a call for women to not lose their identities "just because you fall in love and get married doesn't mean you stop being the person you are." Perry shows that women always find their way back to freedom and self-reliance. Women are survivors.
Saloua Ben Amor is a Tunisian educator and holds an MA in Canadian Literature. She is a committed educator and instructor. Ben Amor is known for her translation work in English, French, and Arabic.
Ben Amor will publish in the forthcoming San Diego Poetry Annual, 2022