The Sweetheart by Angelina Mirabella is a wonderful coming-of-age story set in the 1950s. It’s also very relevant to women today, as it felt it could happen in today’s world. It is a story about friendship, love, growing up, maturing and finding your path in life.
At the beginning of the book, Leonie doesn’t know what she will do with her life. Because she is a lot taller than the other girls at school, she feels like an outcast. Then a chance meeting with a pro wrestling promoter at her work changes her life. She moves to Florida to start training as a professional wrestler.
The man who takes the promotional photos for the pro wrestlers is a giant of a man. He is given the responsibility of naming the girls and he names Leonie Gwen Davies. Gwen doesn’t have much confidence in herself or her abilities. She is paired with Screaming Mimi Hollander as the team people hate. All Leonie wants is to be liked by everyone so she decides to change her personal and becomes The Sweetheart.
Along the way Leonie falls for Sam, Spider McGee, who is the soon to be Junior Heavyweight Champion. Sam is old fashioned. He has the need to protect Leonie and wants to quit wrestling, settle down and have a normal life. Leonie is in her first year of wrestling and wants to see just how far she can go. She loves the fame and adulation and isn’t sure she is ready to give it up.
I enjoyed the wrestling scenes and kept wondering why a woman would do this to her body. There are too many parts that could be damaged permanently. That was the only part I struggled with because I like wrestling that boys do in school, but the pro wrestling that is staged, not so much.
One thing I did struggle with at first is the book entirely in the second person. That was a little confusing but then I got used to it. I found myself swept up in this story and taking a journey through the life of female pro wrestlers. This book is very enjoyable and very entertaining.
A debut, coming-of-age novel in which a teenage girl from Philadelphia leaves her old life behind to become The Sweetheart, one of America’s most infamous female wrestlers. It’s 1953 and seventeen-year-old Leonie Putzkammer is cartoonishly tall and curvaceous, destined to spend the rest of her life waiting tables and living with her widowed father, Franz, in their Philadelphia row house. Until the day legendary wrestling promoter Salvatore Costantini walks into the local diner and offers her the chance of a lifetime.
Leonie sets off for Florida to train at Joe Pospisil’s School for Lady Grappling. There, she transforms into Gorgeous Gwen Davies, tag-team partner of legendary Screaming Mimi Hollander, and begins a romance with the soon-to-be Junior Heavyweight Champion Spider McGee. But when life as Gorgeous Gwen leaves her wanting, she orchestrates a move that will catapult her from heel to hero: she becomes The Sweetheart, a choice that attracts the fans she desires but complicates all of her relationships with Franz, Joe, Spider, Mimi (who becomes her fiercest competitor), and even with herself.
Angelina Mirabella’s surprising, affecting, and morally complex novel describes how a single decision can ripple through the lives of everyone around us. How Leonie sizes up the competition, how she triumphs, how she fails, and how she manages, somehow, to endure, holds promise: if she can, maybe we can, too. The Sweetheart showcases Mirabella’s breathtaking talent; it is daring, innovative, and powerful storytelling.
Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat