Carousel of Progress is a difficult book to stick with in the beginning. Reason being Meredith Herman, the narrator of the story. Meredith is a spoiled teenager who doesn’t seem to like anyone, especially her parents. Typical? Maybe. But how much enjoyment can you get out of reading the words of someone who won’t say a good thing about anyone?
as with most teenagers who believe they know it all, you can’t give up on Meredith. When she says, “Somewhere deep and kept away, I was terribly, remarkably sweet,” she’s right. And if you give her the chance, a little bit of that sweetness will show through.
Meredith is growing up in the L.A. suburbs of the 1970’s. Her parents, attractive and successful, have been drifting apart for some time until, early within the story, they separate. This, of course, may account for much of Meredith’s feelings towards them. In fact, through her eyes, its difficult to sympathize with either parent, an impression author Katherine Tanney does well to reflect. Tanney paints the perfect picture of two self-absorbed parents with a daughter who wants the only changes in her life to be the ones she makes.
For someone who grew up in the 70’s elsewhere in the country, it may appear that Tanney was depicting the wrong decade. Shopping malls and teenaged girls getting nose jobs sounds more like the ‘80s and ‘90s, not the 1970’s. But Tanney was raised in Los Angeles. Her crisp writing lands readers right in the middle of the trend-setting city where middle-aged housewives take assertiveness classes and husbands quit their day-jobs to be stay-at-home writers.
Despite the cutting-edge location, Carousel of Progress is a timeless story. Meredith is just like any teenaged girl trying to be just like any teenaged girl. How situations will effect her is central to her concerns. The beauty of the story is her progress from spoiled teenager to coping teenager. She may not realize it but the reader does. It’s not giving in or giving up but simply maturing.