Causes for Cheer
This series, set in the Granite State, has aged as gracefully as its characters and fans
Some say they don’t make nostalgia like they used to, but you can’t blame Ruth Doan MacDougall for that. Her bittersweet novel “The Cheerleader” was published in the early 1970s, and the story of high school and young love in the 1950s was awash with the charms and quirks of simpler times, while also savvy to the taboos and strictures that supplied that veneer of innocence. Since then, she has written six sequels, bringing her characters all the way into the 21st century, and has one more in the works.
“I never intended to write a series,” says MacDougall. “It was an accident.” She recalls that when she followed up 20 years later with the sequel “Snowy,” she was afraid she would just disappoint readers.
Quite the opposite took place and now, to a substantial and devoted following, the life stories of Snowy, her best friends Bev and Puddles, and man-of-her-dreams Tom have become like shared family memories stored in books.
When “The Cheerleader” first appeared, the social, political and moral turbulence of the Vietnam era was already giving the not-so-distant past a rosy glow. Readers eagerly adopted the heroine, cheerleader Henrietta Snow, and became vicarious residents of Gunthwaite, New Hampshire (based on Laconia, where MacDougall grew up).
This was MacDougall’s third novel, and it attracted the kind of avid readership that we now call a “cult.” These were fans that had become so invested in the lives of her characters that they couldn’t let the story go, so it was to a celebratory audience that “Snowy” appeared in 1993. She thought her third in the series, “Henrietta Snow,” would tie up enough loose ends to satisfy everyone, but demand persisted.
This year, two new installments have appeared (“Site Fidelity” and novella “A Gunthwaite Girl”), and MacDougall’s eighth book in the series, “Lazy Beds,” is due next year. Fans stay in touch with MacDougall and each other via her website and Facebook page.
Some say time flies and that you can’t go home again. Those who make a home in the town of Gunthwaite can always return by simply reading these tales of friends and lovers who live where time does not quite stand still but at least it stays where you left it on the page.
Looking back on her “accidental” series, MacDougall says she has no regrets for how it all began, except perhaps one: “I wish I’d made the name of her town easier to pronounce.” (It’s “gunth-wit,” just so you know.)
And while the characters in the her books have remained just a little out of sync with their author (Snowy is now 69, while MacDougall just turned 78), in these contentious times a little nostalgia goes a long way.