Good Graces

Good Graces

by Lesley Kagen

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To this day, my sister insists it was nothing more than the unrelenting heat that drove us to do what we did that summer, but that’s just Troo yanking my chain the way she always has. Deep down, she knows as well as I do that it wasn’t anything as mundane as the weather. It was the hand of the Almighty that shoved us off the straight and narrow path… 

Whistling in the Dark—a national bestseller—captivated readers with the story of ten-year-old Sally O’Malley and her sister, Troo, during Milwaukee’s summer of 1959. Now it’s one year later, and Sally, who made a deathbed promise to her daddy to keep Troo safe, is having a hard time honoring her vow. Her sister is growing increasingly rebellious amid a string of home burglaries, the escape from reform school of a nemesis, and the mysterious disappearance of an orphan—events that have the entire neighborhood on edge. And in that tense, hot summer, Sally will have to ground her flights of imagination, and barter her waning innocence, in order to sort the truths from the lies to protect her sister and herself.  

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101549063
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/01/2011
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 513,395
File size: 378 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Lesley Kagen is the author of the national bestseller Whistling in the Dark, Land of a Hundred Wonders, and Tomorrow River. She lives near Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Reading Group Guide


Whistling in the Dark captivated readers with the story of ten-year-old Sally O'Malley and her sister, Troo, during Milwaukee's summer of 1959. In Good Graces, it's one year later, and a heat wave has everyone in the close-knit Milwaukee neighborhood on edge. None more so than Sally O'Malley, who remains deeply traumatized by the sudden death of her daddy and her near escape from a murderer and molester the previous summer. Although outwardly she and her sister, Troo, are more secure, Sally's confidence in her own judgment and much of her faith have been whittled away. When a series of disquieting events unfold in the neighborhood—a string of home burglaries, the escape from reform school of a nemesis, and the mysterious disappearance of an orphan, crimes that may involve the increasingly rebellious Troo—Sally is called upon to rise above her inner demons. She made a deathbed promise to her daddy to keep Troo safe, a promise she can't break, even if her life depends on it. But when events reach a crisis point, will Sally have the courage and discernment to make the right choices? Or will her false assumptions lead her and those she loves into danger once again?



Lesley Kagen is an actress, voice-over talent, and restaurateur, as well as the author of two previous national bestselling novels. Whistling in the Dark has been translated into five languages and was a Midwest Choice Honor winner. Land of a Hundred Wonders, an Indie Next pick, was also nominated for a Midwest Choice Award. She lives near Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


  • Let's talk about the time and setting of the book. Does it resonate with you? If so, share some memories of those good old days.
  • Children are not allowed the same freedom today as they were back in the fifties and sixties. As in all things, there are positives and negatives. Can you think of a few?
  • Much of what Sally and Troo learn is gleaned from eavesdropping and gossip. Communication between adults and children has dramatically changed over the past fifty years. Discuss how it was back then versus now.
  • Adults seem to think traumatized Sally suffers from over-imagination, cured with weekly does of cod liver oil. How does their treatment of her differ from how victimized children are cared for today?
  • How much of Sally's devotion to Troo is based on love for her sister versus her deep sense of responsibility to her daddy? How you do think Troo sees Sally?
  • The Catholic Church plays an important role in the neighborhood. Do you think religion still plays as vital a part in our lives as it used to? Why or why not?
  • Sally has a pretty good grasp of the racial, sexual and class structures in the neighborhood. Growing up, were you aware of prejudices? How did they affect your views at the time?
  • Why do you think Sally depends on Ethel so much? What does she get out of the relationship?
  • Family dynamics are complicated, but none more so than the relationship between sisters. Can you describe your experience with your sister or sisters?
  • So much mental illness went undiagnosed during these times. Name a few characters who might have been a lot better off had they been born now rather than then.
  • What do you think of Helen as a mother? Do you find her strong/disinterested/a product of her era?
  • Near the end of the book, the girls commit an act that will affect them for the rest of their lives. Discuss how you feel about how they handled the situation. What would you have done in their shoes?
  • After Sally visits Sampson at the zoo, he doesn't seem to recognize her. Sally is surprised that she isn't really bothered that much by his cool reception. Why do you think this is? How had Sally changed since the beginning of the book, and if your read it, since Whistling in the Dark?
  • What do you suppose happens to the main characters after the story ends?
  • Customer Reviews

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    Good Graces 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
    JoanMaggie More than 1 year ago
    Lesley Kagen writes books that make you feel good. She is a masterful storyteller with an eye for period detail and the ability to get into the mind of a very imaginative little girl. We first met the O.Malley girls in Whistling in the Dark and are now lucky enough to revisit their blue collar Milwaukee 1960s neighborhood in Good Graces. While this book is a sequel, it can be read as a stand alone. (But why would you deny yourself the full pleasure of reading both?) As is the norm, the children run in a sub-orbit to the adults in this book. The kids have their own fully developed world and they also have the puzzling world of adults to contend with. Sally uses her fertile imagination to help her try to make sense of the adult world which leads to some pretty funny explanations. This book has some really good laugh out loud passages that are gentle humor and not the harsh and mean type of humor often found in today's comedy. This is a very good book and I recommend it without reservation.
    marylane More than 1 year ago
    Good Graces offers a unique experience in reading...You can easily crawl into Sally and Troo's shoes through Kagen's gift of writing dialogue! However, at the same time, you are walking down your own personal memory lane. The 50's and 60's sparks to life with the oodles and oodles of references to life back then. As a result, you are literally reading 2 stories...Kagen's and your own! Mary Lane, the second(:
    amusingmother on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Unpredictable and an awful lot like a fun time. Sally is the narrator and Sally is telling the story in her 12 year old voice. She captures the time period, the tone, and the innocence so well! Absolutely loved the Point of view, each character and the way Sally describes each character. Politically incorrect language of the 1970's, it is not offensive but consistent with the way people talked. I loved every single character and the way they presented themselves to Sally. I loved the Pollacks, Black Irish, Negroes, Mongoloids, and even the way Sally no longer believed in God, being a bad Catholic now and the way He answers her prayers. Fun, fun read. It reminds me of the movie, Sandlot only in a different setting with the protagonist a 12 year old girl instead of a boy. There is swearing with a few strategic "f" bombs. Dialogue contains innuendo but fairly clean. Violence is what you would expect on a playground. Themes are appropriate for a teen but it is clearly written for the woman who has ever had a bad Toni perm.
    nightprose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Lesley Kagen continues the story of Sally O¿Malley and her sister Troo, from her bestselling novel Whistling in the Dark. However, to simply call this a sequel, while the transition is seamless, does not do this book justice. Good Graces has its own story to tell. It is one year later in 1960 Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A year in the life of the O¿Malley sisters has seen many changes. While home life is more secure, both girls are still grieving the sudden loss of their father a year ago. Ever the good girl, Sally is determined to keep her deathbed promise to take care of Troo. Troo is not making it easy, becoming increasingly rebellious. Troo constantly pushes the limits and crosses lines. Her need for attention and love of drama drives her. Summer has brought a heat wave, making everyone restless. As the summer heats up, so does the danger. The disappearance of a local boy and the escape of Troo¿s nemesis from reform school are problem enough for Sally. Making matters worse, a series of home burglaries in the neighbourhood seem to possibly be connected to Troo. Exhausted and overwhelmed, Sally is unsure of her own judgment regarding both people and situations. Eventually things come to a boiling point and Sally is forced to find the courage to make decisions that surprise even her.Lesley Kagen is an extraordinary author. She captures the essence of adolescence, with its conflict of innocence and awareness. She has a gift of giving authentic voice to her child characters. Her books are humorous yet sensitive and sweet, leaving you wanting more.
    larestout on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    I enjoyed this book just as much as Whistling in the Dark. The dialog and feel of the book reminds me of the old TV show Wonder Years. I laughed out loud and yet was almost brought to tears over the plight of some of the characters. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to view the world through the eyes of a child again.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Darlene28 More than 1 year ago
    I won this book from First Reads but I already had read books by Lesley Kagen and liked them so I did not mind reading Good Graces. This is a sequel to an earlier book "Whistling in the Dark" but you are not lost if you don't read the first. This book takes place in 1960 and is about 2 sisters (Irish twins)growing up after the loss of their Daddy. On his death bed, Daddy asked the eldest, Sally to "take care of Troo (Trooper) and keep her safe". What a responsiblity to put on an 11 year old. Trooper a.k.a. Margaret is a handful for anyone. Reading this book is like reliving your childhood all over again with fun, fears,friends and others during one summer.
    Dollycas More than 1 year ago
    Kagen takes us back to Milwaukee in this sequel to the National Bestseller Whistling In the Dark. One year has passed and Sally is still trying to deal with her escape from a child molester and murderer and the loss of her father. She promised her dad she would take care of her rebel sister Troo and keep her safe. Troo is not making the promise very easy to keep as she gets in trouble at school and sneaks out of their bedroom in the middle of the night. The neighborhood is having a crime wave with several burglaries. Then an orphan boy goes missing and Troo's arch enemy has escaped from reform school. Is Troo involved in these incidents? Is she going to hunt down the boy that escaped and try to get revenge? Is she the "cat burgler"? Sally will do anything to save her sister even if it means putting herself in danger. Dollycas's Thoughts Life through the eyes of a child. Lesley Kagen is a master at writing from these young viewpoints. Funny from having to write the charitable story over the summer to turn in on the first day of school to Troo pretending she is French and wanting to be called "Leeze", visits to the Latour house where they have so many kids an extra one or two is never noticed and the muu-muu wearing granny who looks like George Washington. The childhood games and songs, the old sayings we all heard time and time again going up like "when it rains it pours and "an idle mind is the devil's workshop". Sad as the zoo moves across town, dealing with the changes that have come about since their fathers death. Mysterious as we learn there is something going on at the church. Kagen takes us on a time back in time. I would love to be sitting with Ethel on the porch or go to all the happenings at the park. This is a completely charming novel just like Whistling In the Dark. Wonderfully drawn characters with engaging stories that all blend together with perfect precision. I think this one is even better than its predecessor! Escape to Milwaukee 1960 this summer, you will be glad you made the trip!!
    SallyRide More than 1 year ago
    The best sequel I've ever read! If you love a well-written book with a lot of heart, Good Graces is for you. A fantastic book club read.
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    english_teacher_39yrs More than 1 year ago
    Love the voice and POV of Sally nd the Milwaukee setting.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This is a great follow-up to Whistling In The Dark by Kagen, which is wonderful also. This author has a true way of showing and telling great characters and a good story.
    Cheryl1117 More than 1 year ago
    Lesley Kagen has done it again !!!! I would reccomend Good Graces to any reader who wants to "just get lost in a good book" !!!
    Lonnie More than 1 year ago
    A friend introduced me to Lesley Kagan. I read Whistling in the Dark and then picked up Tomorrow River. I preordered Good Graces and received it the week it was published. I think Lesley Kagen is a real treasure. Love her writing and her children. I hope she keeps writing for a long long time. Lonnie, Minneapolis
    Debbiethiede More than 1 year ago
    Lesley Kagen's descriptions in Good Graces are amazing! You will feel as though you are in the Milwaukee neighborhood with Troo and Sally O'Malley. When I was a little girl we always went to see Sampson the gorilla at the Milwaukee Zoo. When Lesley wrote about the girls' visits with Sampson I felt the excitement I used to feel so many years ago when I would go to see him! This is a "keep reading-can't put it down" book! Don't stop with Good Graces. Read Lesley Kagen's other books: Whistling in the Dark (read 1st if you can), Land of a Hundred Wonders, and Tomorrow River.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    VirtuousWomanKF More than 1 year ago
    I loved Whistling in the Dark and waitied with anticipation for the release of Good Graces. I find myself dissapointed in this sequel. Don't get me wrong, I didn't hate it but didn't love it either. I felt that the relationship between Sally and Troo was very drawn out and repetitive. The ending was so unrealistic and odd to me. I still love the characters and feel like they would have been my friends growing up. Well, Sally at least. However, as an adult, Troo's spunkiness sure makes me laugh!
    Lesliann4 More than 1 year ago
    I didn't want this book to end. I wanted to stay in Milwaukee with Sally and Troo back in 1960. I found myself reading slowly, only allowing myself a few pages at a time (like a special treat). I hope I can go back to 1961 with book three.
    strawberrypd More than 1 year ago
    I received Good Graces on 9/1 and finished it on 9/2....I could not put it down. Lesley Kagen's descriptions of 1960, the O'Malley sisters and their neighborhood make me want to go back to that time period! Lesley is a master story teller and just keeps getting better. I can't wait for the next book!
    IrishKathy More than 1 year ago
    It was hard to put down Good Graces. Having been raised on the West Side of Milwaukee, Troo and Sally's adventures are the stuff that my sister and I longed for when we were growing up. Sally's wit and young intelligence, combined with her devotion to her younger sister Troo.....or should I say her promise to her late father to keep Troo safe and sound.....makes for another summer of fun, fear and imaginative follies. Good Graces delivers on all fronts...humor, adventure, great neighborhood characters, and left me hoping that Lesley Kagen has a third summer sharing tales of the O'Malley sisters in a future novel.....