Book Review: Emma Cline, The Girls

Poor girls. The world fattens them on the promise of love. How badly they need it, and how little most of them will ever get. The treacled pop songs, the dresses described in the catalogs with words like ‘sunset’ and ‘Paris’. Then the dreams are taken away with such violent force; the hand wrenching the buttons of the jeans, nobody looking at the man shouting at his girlfriend on the bus.

A fantastic debut novel from a promising new author; I could not put this book down. Fourteen year old Evie Boyd flings herself into the summer of love with all the emotions of a girl on the cusp of adulthood who never stops to think about what comes next, only what’s here now. Already on a path of self destruction following the separation of her parents, Evie only too eagerly sheds her past behind like snake skin as she becomes absorbed in the orbit of Suzanne, one of the girls Evie yearns to be, who herself has become absorbed in the orbit of a dangerous, manipulative cult leader. (Yes, that man, that cult.) As she becomes accustomed to the violence of everyday life on the ranch, Evie becomes more and more detached from the real world, leaving herself behind with it.

With keen insight and stunning details, Cline did an excellent job of plunging me straight back to girlhood, all its sharp edges and blunt revelations and its cool, calculated stripping away of childhood. When you long so hard to be an adult even after that harsh reality begins to glimmer into focus. All of those firsts: the good and the bad. And the horrible. The cruelty of other girls, that only other girls will ever understand. Ugly and brutal and real. So real. I can’t wait for Cline’s next offering.

We had been with the men, we had let them do what they wanted. But they would never know the parts of ourselves that we hid from them – they would never sense the lack or even know there was something more they should be looking for.

Book Review: Louise Erdrich, LaRose

Getting blown up happened in an instant; getting put together took the rest of your life.

When the unthinkable happens to a young boy, two families must learn how to connect in order to survive, even if forging that connection will take the rest of their lives. That tenuous connection is LaRose, a little boy wise beyond his years, and possessor of a famous name passed down through generations. As the story of the original LaRose intertwines with that of the little boy who bears her name, the story of the two families connections is revealed. A powerful tale from the creative imagination of a master.

Book Review: Louise Erdrich, The Round House

When thirteen-year-old Joe’s mother Geraldine Coutts is brutally attacked one Sunday afternoon in June he does what any devoted son would do: sets out on a quest to uncover and punish her assailant with the encouragement and aid of his father Bazil, a tribal judge. Joe’s efforts, however, are complicated by his mother’s retreat into her bedroom and refusal to reveal any clues as to the nature of the horrendous crime, even to the son who carries her secret and the most important piece of evidence in the case. With the help of his crew Angus, Zack, and his best friend Cappy, Joe perseveres, revealing in his increasingly dangerous pursuit of the truth of what happened to his mother the very real and sordid history of crimes of whites against Indians and lack of any punishment afterward on reservations in the United States.

While overall horrifying and somber in theme and ending, this novel does contain humor and biting wit throughout. Erdrich expertly captures the fearless and free natures of teenage boys enjoying their summer off from school on an adventure in search of justice, yearning to be older than they are. Joe will become horribly aged by the end of it, although not without experiencing moments of sheer bliss only a thirteen-year-old boy can imagine in addition to the feelings of guilt and desperation he will feel as he passes the all-important threshold into adulthood in a way he never could. Along his way Joe absorbs wisdom and advice from a strong cast of fierce women aunties as well as his Mooshum, a contemporary of Nanapush who pops up with his own sage wit as do some other recognizable names from the rez.

[Love how Erdrich has this small linked community that exists within her books, a la certain Stephen King, hers meaningful for the Reservation it portrays as his is of small town rural America. LaRose appears in this book: so excited I’m planning to read that one next already before she did!]