Author's debut novel set along Crab Hollow Road in Penn Hills

Patrick Varine
| Tuesday, July 30, 2013, 8:42 p.m.

Crab Hollow Road is a half-mile stretch connecting Frankstown Road to Laketon Road in Penn Hills' Laketon Heights neighborhood.

But for Karen Gennari, 61, of West Mifflin, it was an entire world unto itself, and served as the inspiration for her first novel, “The Crab Hollow Chronicles.”

Gennari, who grew up on the west Penn Hills street, said her childhood memories inspired the book, which she referred to as “a fictitious memoir.”

“The first chapter is all true, but it's mostly fiction,” Gennari said. “I (originally) thought I would just write a short story about an incident that happened. But once I wrote that, I just decided to keep going.”

Gennari grew up in a neighborhood of mostly young boys, “so I had to deal with them all the time,” she said.

The book is set in 1961 and '62, spanning a year in the life of the fictitious character Karen Schmidt.

“I just loved my neighborhood,” Gennari said. “We lived on the level area of Crab Hollow, and that's where all the action took place. There was an empty lot where we rode our bikes, played kickball, Wiffleball and dodgeball.

“There were enough boys in the neighborhood that we had two teams, and sometimes the boys would let me play.”

While the story is mostly confined to Gennari's former stomping grounds, it expands out to reference Pittsburgh, the Pirates and Isaly's. And while it is officially set in “Pine Hills,” local residents will certainly recognize references to places like the Eastwood Theater, G.C. Murphy's and Kresge's from the former East Hills Shopping Center, as well as walks to the bookmobile — though Gennari changed its location to “Shusterman's Pharmacy on Crescent Road.”

Gennari has fond memories of riding her bike, roller-skating, jumping up and down the street on her pogo stick and “just being outside every day,” she said. “I was an outdoor kid — that was part of the reason I had to deal with the boys!”

Gennari will host a discussion of “The Crab Hollow Chronicles” on Monday, at 7 p.m. in the William E. Anderson Library of Penn Hills.

In addition to talking about the novel, Gennari will also be bringing memorabilia from her childhood, including original articles on the John and Robert Kennedy assassinations, a Howdy Doody doll, a Charles Chips tin, and other items from the 1950s and '60s.

“I really have fond memories of growing up there,” she said.

“The Crab Hollow Chronicles” is available through eLectio Publishing. For more information, visit Electiopublish and click on the “Bookstore” link.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or

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