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.
Debut Author Snapshot: Angelina Mirabella
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Novel about 1950s women’s wrestling a sweetheart debut
Praise for the book:
“You would be forgiven for thinking Angelina Mirabella had herself been a star lady wrestler in the 1950s, given how authentically detailed her debut novel is. Fortunately for us, she’s a fiction writer—and a superb one—who has penned The Sweetheart, bringing all her glorious gifts of empathy and language to bear on its unforgettable heroine.” ~Teddy Wayne, author of The Love Song of Jonny Valentine
“Smart, funny, and poignant, Angelina Mirabella’s The Sweetheart puts a hammerlock on one of literature’s most important themes, the search for an identity, and makes it cry ‘Auntie!’ This is a delightfully original novel by a champ of a new writer.” ~Robert Olen Butler, author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
“Like Gwen Davies, its deeply loveable heroine, The Sweetheart is a delightful combination of beauty, brawn, and heart. Angelina Mirabella revives the entertainment of ‘lady wrestling’ from its black-and-white age and raises it to the level of art. This is a bold, agile, and breathlessly exuberant debut.” ~Eleanor Henderson, author of Ten Thousand Saints
“Why haven’t there been more novels written about the lady wrestling circuit of the 1950s? Thank God the talented Angelina Mirabella has opened up this fascinating world for us in her mesmerizing debut novel, The Sweetheart. Its heroine—Gorgeous Gwen Davies—is the most feisty and vulnerable character you’ll ever meet. Once she leaps from the turnbuckle and takes the competition to the mat, you’ll find yourself out of your seat and cheering. The Sweetheart made me downright giddy.” ~Elizabeth Stuckey-French, author of The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady
"Debut novelist Mirabella delivers a powerful blow with her coming-of-age story set in the world of women's professional wrestling in 1953. Leonie Putzkammer is a 17-year-old who's primed to reinvent herself...The novel is bursting with colorful characters who are far more complex than the heels and faces they portray in the theater of professional wrestling. A powerful tale of a person's capacity for reinvention." ~Kirkus Reviews
"An engrossing portrait of the little-known world of women's wrestling with questions about the nature of stardom and showing love. Leonie will fascinate teens, especially girls, as she makes her own way in a male-dominated sport. There's much here for book clubs to discuss." ~Library Journal