Sometimes, life plays little jokes. For Jeannette McDonald, growing up in a small town in West Virginia in the 1950s, life had three particular jokes in mind: naming her after a famous movie star, giving her a birthday just after Valentine's Day, and letting her grow up on a street named Gladden-a place as far from glad as Jeannette was from being a movie star. Growing up is supposed to be a time of wonder and joy. For the girl on Gladden Street, the wonder was in discovering that when life plays jokes, anything is possible if you keep a healthy attitude. Ms. McDonald relates that some of life's harshest realities can lead to new awakenings and a better life. Peppered with a series of brief, episodic, coming-of-age vignettes that illustrate Ms. McDonald's life and much of the American landscape of the 1950s, The Girl from Gladden Street provides a reminder that some of our most valuable lessons come from events experienced during the most impressionable times of life.