Norristown is situated 10km northwest of Philadelphia. Alice Sebold would have known it well, having grown up in the suburbs of Philadelphia. It is a typical small town which, in the novel, offers little opportunity for young people.
Norristown by Michael A. Bono and Jack Coll provides a wealth of information and vintage photographs tracing the history of the town, and a preview is available on Google books.
The map shows Norristown, and the Route 202 and Route 30 highways which are mentioned in the book. Also visible is the Valley Forge National Park, home to George Washington’s log cabin and the Washington Memorial Chapel, and a favoured hunting ground of George Harvey.
The fashion for non-traditional clothing began to hit the mainstream, so long hair, bellbottoms, hotpants, clogs and platforms were all the rage. The 1970s was a time of significant social change; most pertinently to this novel, the Supreme Court legalised abortion in 1973; the economy was in recession and crime levels rose despite President Nixon’s promises of a hard-line approach; immigration increased due to the Immigration Act of 1965; the divorce rate rose, and women joined other minorities including gay pride and ethnic groups to demand equal rights in all areas, especially education and work.