25 January 2012

Girlchild: A Novel by Tupelo Hassman

Flap Copy from ARC: "Rory Hendrix is the least likely of Girl Scounts. She hasn't got a troop or even a badge to call her own. But she's checked the Handbook out from the elementary-school library so many times that her name fills all the lines on the card, and she pores over its surreal advice for tips to get off the Calle: that is, the Calle de los Flores, the Reno trailer park where she lives with her mother, Jo, the sweet-faced, hard-luck bartender at the Truck Stop.

Rory's been told she is "third generation in a line of apparent imbeciles, feeble-minded bastards surely on the road to whoredom." But she's determined to prove the county and her own family wrong."

Creatively written, the story is at times funny, very real and normal and yet still horrifying in its tragic parts. The story is told in short chapters in a wide variety of styles, tied together loosely by Rory, the girl, reading from the Girl Scout Handbook and trying to model her life through the outdated and often irrelevant advice she reads there. There are also letters, parts of files from the state, pages that are mostly blacked out words and more - enough style that at times it overwhelms the plot, though for the most part I think the style was what carried the story. The reader gets a real sense of Rory and her life, from childhood through adolescence. There is a plot but the book is almost more about human resilience, the character of a family and a town and the nature of intelligence than it is about the story itself. I found the book sad and I didn't find the end uplifting in the same way as many other reviewers, but I did think the author managed to wrap up the tragic story with a little bit of hope.