Shani O. Hilton

Laura’s Luck
Marilyn Sachs • Doubleday & Company • 1965
by Shani O. Hilton • Published in WOMANZINE 07 — CAMP(ING)

Laura’s Luck is an old book about a girl who goes to summer camp with her sister because her mother is recovering from an accident. Apparently her family has enough money to pay medical bills and send the girls to sleepaway camp for three months, but not enough to spend on a dress that costs $4.98 (I don’t know, ’60s money was weird). It is also responsible for 75 percent of my knowledge about summer camp. The other 25 percent has been filled in by the 1961 Hayley Mills classic,The Parent Trap, its remake, and Addams Family Values.

I bought the book at a Friends of the Library book store for probably a dollar when I was 12 or 13 — around the same age as the titular character. It is a) a first edition and b) signed by the author. Though, it is worth noting, I have never been able to decipher the name of the person to whom Sachs is offering “many good wishes.” Miss Monies? Min Moris? Miss Dnonir? Someone who gave the book away because her name was spelled wrong?

Anyway, there are no people of color at Camp Tiorati. Just smart white girls, popular white girls, and white girls like Laura, who is a precocious misanthrope that probably doesn’t deserve any friends. “You can always tell when adults don’t like you. They act fair,” she notes to herself, after realizing the camp counselor is treating her politely, but not warmly. Laura gets to know new girls, plays camp sports, engages in pranks, and does all the what-have-you that people do at camp. But by the end of story, she hasn’t changed all that much, except for two things: 1) she makes a close friend, and 2) she gets poison ivy.

As a supposed former precocious misanthrope myself, the former gave me great hope.

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