A sobering yet ultimately triumphant story. Through Rory, the author deliberates on the behaviors, circumstances and choices that make up the culture of violence that permeates this and similar communities of poverty. The Girl Scout "hook" used by the publisher is totally off the mark. It's a minor part of the book.
girlchild hits the reader hard with Rory Dawn's grief, sadness, and anger. both for herself, and as she gets older, for her mother.
The NY Times review is right on, except for its criticism of the use of the Girl Scout manual. I thought the manual was an ingenious device rather than "overly cute," as the Times puts it. As a very young child, Rory D looks to the manual for advice and guidance, but as she gets older, she realizes that the manual really doesn't contain many useful answers. It becomes another source of disappointment in her life devoid of anything positive.
The Times article also doesn't mention the use of Buck vs. Bell to help develop the hopelessness that Rory D feels in ever being able to escape her life in the trailer court.
This book packs an intense emotional wallop, and it does it in a most unusual and creative way.
Make no mistake, this is not a book about being a Girl Scout. It is a book about grinding poverty and class divisions in America. It is a grim book about nightmares no child should experience. Yet it is not a graphic book. Nor is it entirely without hope. Rory is smart and determined. She recovers from the abuse to return to a normal life, at least normal for The Calle. The reader is left with a sense that maybe, just maybe, she will break the cycle of despair. Girlchild is a book that will have an impact and will stay with you long after you turn the last page.
This wasn't an easy book to read - a lot of things happen to Rory. However, I cared what happened because I just cared so much about her - I wanted her to be successful and find what she needed, and everything else. Plus, this is a stunningly written novel.
At once, innocent and worldly; raw and fluid, Rory's struggle to stay afloat in an environment that is anything but life-saving is a warm and hopeful read, especially for anyone who's struggled with childhood abuse, and the nuanced bitterness and comfort of family love.
This book wasn't what I expected (although I'm not really sure what I expected). If I had nothing else to read, I might have muddled my way through it. As it was, I had other books and couldn't be bothered to finish. And, I was a Girl Scout!
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