★★★★★ Uniquely Stella by Deborah M. Menenberg follows a young mother of three, whose life is unexpectedly upended when her husband leaves her. Telling her own story through a variety of amusing anecdotes, Stella first recounts her journey from Chicago to California, where she met her future husband working a job—for just a single day—at a local drive-in restaurant. (Turns out, roller skates didn’t agree with her.) Along the way, Stella also contends with issues of racial discrimination, serving as a stalwart ally for her African American friend, Veronica. Stella and Veronica handle it the only way they know how—with humor, determination, and a tendency to make up new “laws” in order to convince people to do the right thing. Later on, Veronica rallies to Stella’s side when it turns out her middle daughter, Donna, who has Down syndrome, will not be admitted to school because the faculty is not equipped to teach her. Through sheer grit and grace, Stella and Veronica manage to transform their town and help pave the way for further social change across the country.
Uniquely Stella is a charmingly retro slice-of-life with a winning lead, which will undoubtedly appeal to fans of the popular TV show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Stella’s contagious sense of humor infects everyone she meets, and it will have a similar effect on readers, too. Furthermore, Menenberg rather impressively manages to give equal shrift to multiple social injustices that plagued the United States during the 1950s and ’60s—and manage to persist in some form even today. While Stella frequently champions racial and female equality, her chief topic of concern is helping to build a better world for her learning disabled daughter. The heart of this novel pumps fiercely, and Stella’s resolute optimism is a poultice for today’s troubled times.