It must be over 30 years since I last read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, but I can still remember large sections of it word-for-word. I was a bit nervous about seeing the film, because it’s such an iconic book that it would’ve been awful if they’d made a mess of it; but they’ve done a really good job.
In 1970, Margaret is 11. She’s the daughter of a Jewish father and a Protestant mother, but isn’t being raised in either faith and instead chats away to God about her life and problems – to the horror of the censors in several American states. The family have a close relationship with her widowed paternal grandmother, but have been cut off by her maternal grandparents. When they move from New York City to suburban New Jersey, Margaret meets know-all Nancy Wheeler and joins her “Pre-Teen Sensations” gang (although the gang name wasn’t given in the film, for some reason), and tries to cope with worries about periods, bras, religion and boys.
The one big change from the book to the film is that the adults have been given a bigger role. Reading the books as a kid, it never occurred to me that Herb and Barbara, Margaret’s parents, would also have found it hard to settle into a new place where they didn’t know anyone, that Sylvia, her grandma, would have been devastated that her family were moving away, or even how devastated Barbara must have been when her parents disowned her because of her choice of husband. In the book, Margaret’s always known what happened with her maternal grandparents, but in the film we see Barbara telling her, and it’s quite a powerful moment.
I do, however, remember wondering what on earth the “Y” (again not mentioned in the film, but mentioned several times in the book) was – I’d have got “YMCA”, because of the song, but “Y” on its own completely threw me – and being confused by the term “real estate agent”, which made me wonder if the Simons had at some point been dealing with a fake estate agent. Why I can remember this after over 35 years, when I can never remember where I put my keys down two minutes ago, is a mystery! But I do remember it very clearly, because, as I said, it’s such an iconic book. And the film does do it justice. Watch and enjoy!