The first published book by Kathryn Fitzmaurice is a gem for young adults. The Year the Swallows Came Early was published in 2009. This lyrical, moving story of a young girl nicknamed Groovy brings along all the emotions of a young girl coming of age. Although the setting is very realistic and Groovy has real life problems, the atmosphere and descriptions are idyllic. The novel is set in San Juan Capistrano, California. Each year, many people make the pilgrimage to the harbor town to see the swallows. Groovy helps out at a small restaurant and store in the town appropriately named “The Swallow.”
The Characters of The Year the Swallows Came Early
There are several supporting characters to the eleven year old Groovy, whose real name is Eleanor Robinson. Groovy’s greatest dream in life is to go to culinary school as soon as possible when she becomes old enough. She plans out menus for her family but she soon learns that planning out menus is simply not enough to hold everything in her family perfectly together. In an amazingly short period of time, her father goes to jail and her best friend’s long-absent mother reappears. Then, the swallows come early in the annual migration to Groovy’s hometown.
The characters are well developed in the novel and are filled with necessary details that bring the supporting cast of family and friends and their relation to Groovy realistic. One memorable character is Marisol Cruz, who is Groovy’s grade at school. Marisol is just as passionate about her visual art as Groovy is about her culinary abilities. Marisol and her younger brother are expertly woven throughout the book. Groovy’s best friend is a boy named Frankie. Fitzmaurice poignantly exposes the emotional holes of each character as they relate to Groovy and brings about the beginning of healing near the end of the book.
The Kathryn Fitzmaurice Author Connection to the Novel
There is much of Kathryn Fitzmaurice in this novel. She lives in California with her family and is completely at home with the region of which she writes. At age thirteen, she was sent to spend a summer with her grandmother, who was a science fiction writer. This is very similar to the grandmother of Groovy. Fitzmaurice was so enthralled with the way that her grandmother could control characters to her bidding, she herself decided to become a writer as well.
On the whole, the book addresses real life situations in a sensitive way. In today’s world, where many young adults endure broken homes and stressful family conditions, many young adult readers can relate to the characters in the novel. The book runs 273 pages and would be suited for children from approximately fourth grade to eighth grade. The language is superb and the descriptive nature of Fitzmaurice’s writing ability paints a picture for the reader.
Source: Fitzmaurice, Kathryn; The Year the Swallows Came Early; Bowen Press/Harper Collins (2009); ISBN # 978-0-06-162497-1