The test pattern of the title of Marjorie Klein's first novel is what eleven-year—old Cassie Palmer sees the future in on television. Since the story takes place in the 1950’s, this future is the reader's past, and includes the Beatles, popular dances, the Vietnam War, and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
No one believes Cassie except her friend Molly's father Max Finklestein, a painter from New York who has settled in Newport News, Virginia, where Cassie lives. What she sees, though, does not control the story as much as what her mother Lorena dreams of, which is a career as a tap dancer.
Though her husband Pete, who works in a shipyard, is committed to his family, and though Cassie needs as much care and attention from her as she gets from him, Lorena is so wrapped up in her fantasy that she neglects them both. The Arthur Godfrey Talent Show that she watches on television makes her want fame above all else, and to this end she has an affair with Binky Quisenberry, a veteran of World War II and now a mailman, because his cousin Wally is a talent scout for the Godfrey show and she wants to meet him.
Lorena spends most of the novel perfecting her dance routine and changing the style and color of her hair. She becomes, in effect, useless to her daughter, who is afraid of growing up, and her husband, who pities himself because he doesn't know how to advance in his work.
Cassie' s needs become acute when...
(The entire section is 476 words.)