Mary's adventures of growing up in the 40's starts when she is four, and just out of the hospital. God appears to her in the form of a head, which she can see out of the corner of her eye. The head sticks around, and when the story ends at her eleventh year, she has met a teacher with an extraordinary past, and a persistent minister who teaches her the joys of the ordinary life. More
Synopsis of “The Godhead”
At the age of four, and just out of the hospital, Mary sees a head in the corner of her eye. She instinctively knows this is God although God is never mentioned in her home. Her sixth grade teacher, the beautiful and peroxided Miss Kastor, changes Mary’s view that school is a necessary boredom. Sylvia Kastor comes to teach Girls’ P.E. and Health from a small town 30 miles to the east. Unmarried, she leaves behind her four year old daughter for her mother to care for, and she travels home by bus on the weekends. Miss Kastor has a notorious grandmother, Pearl, who spends some time in the Indiana Reformatory for Women for killing her husband with the heavy iron skillet used to cook his meals. Pearl is unrepentant. “Sam was a bad man, and bad men can do unnatural acts with their little daughters.” The little daughter, Ellen, is sent to live with a great aunt until she is married and has children. Ellen’s third child is Sylvia. When Sylvia is in high school, she meets a new girl, Joylene, whose father is an itinerant preacher, traveling in rural areas, setting up a church for one year, and then leaving, much to the chagrin of the congregation, who have grown to love him and his family. The two girls are fast friends, avid readers, and with Joylene’s help, Sylvia begins to think beyond beauty and popularity. Using Jane Addams “Hull House” as their inspiration, they promise each other that they will live extraordinary lives, “even if in ordinary circumstances.”
Pearl is well liked in prison, teaching the other women to read, using the Bible and sentences that Pearl made up, such as “Men are pigs”. When she is released, Pearl marries the preacher she has corresponded with during her incarceration, and together they start “The Home Across the River” for children without parents, with emphasis on the children of the women in the reformatory across the river.
The novel weaves back and forth between Mary, Sylvia, and Pearl, and is told with humor and a celebration of the ordinary life. In “Tales of Limestone Street”, which starts and ends the novel, residents of that old, crumbling neighborhood talk with the new pastor, Joylene, about their lives during the great depression, the war, and the closing of the quarry. “We just live ordinary lives” Frank tells Joylene, when she tells him she wants to write a book about the residents of Limestone Street. “Perfect, Frank”, she tells him. “Those are the stories I want to tell!”