Cross My Heart


126 pages
ISBN 1-894549-32-5
DDC C813'.6





Reviewed by Allison Sivak

Allison Sivak is a librarian in the Science and Technology Library at
the University of Alberta.


Cross My Heart presents a series of short, interconnected stories about
a girl growing up in southwestern Ontario during the 1960s. The stories
piece together various aspects of teenage-hood, from eccentric parents,
to the rise and fall of friendships, to sexual discovery. Jill is the
youngest of three Summerfield daughters, each of whom is finding her own
path through life. Elissa is the picture-perfect girl on the road to a
young marriage. Nory is a self-absorbed dreamer who will eventually
choose a bohemian lifestyle. Jill, watching them grow up, tries to
understand where she fits in and where she chooses not to fit in, as the
girls’ parents encourage their daughters to be special, successful,
and above all, to achieve something for themselves before they settle
down. Jill’s friends are alternately troubled or shallow, but share
the desire to find love and be coupled and/or married, while Jill tries
to negotiate a balance between being “normal” and being happy. By
the end of the book, Jill has started to claim her own territory,
following a path unlike one that has been followed by anyone else around

Shipley’s writing is both clear and nuanced, allowing room for the
subtleties of Jill’s character to emerge. The prescribed gender roles
of the time are well illustrated and naturalized, and Jill’s own quiet
struggles against these roles demonstrates an intelligent but
realistically drawn character.

The first stories in the book are the most successful in integrating
the character’s emotional development, narrative, and setting. The
last story, “Overtures,” is clichéd in its attempts to present Jill
as moving away from the restrictions of growing up female in a small
town. Overall, however, the collection presents the complexity of
teenage experience, and shows with humour and compassion the confusion
experienced by girls attempting to understand the world they live in.


Shipley, Jocelyn., “Cross My Heart,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 17, 2024,