November 13, 2013

Latest Read: Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman

Here are the basics ...
Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman
Publication date: Feb. 5, 2013
Publisher: Picador
Category: Fiction - Contemporary
Source: Purchased

Summary: Rory Hendrix, the least likely of Girl Scouts, hasn’t got a troop or a badge to call her own. But she still borrows the Handbook from the elementary school library to pore over its advice, looking for tips to get off the Calle—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 one of the “third-generation bastards surely on the road to whoredom,” and she’s determined to break the cycle. As Rory struggles with her mother’s habit of trusting the wrong men, and the mixed blessing of being too smart for her own good, she finds refuge in books and language. From diary entries, social workers' reports, story problems, arrest records, family lore, and her grandmother’s letters, Tupelo Hassman's Girlchild crafts a devastating collage that shows us Rory's world while she searches for the way out of it. (Adapted goodreads.com)
My thoughts…
The good: I picked up Girlchild when I discovered there was a Shakespeare & Company Bookstore in NYC (did anyone else know about this?). A few days before, I had just been telling Estelle that I don't browse bookstores anymore. I don't pick up books based on their pretty covers (yes I'm judgmental like that) and I'm constantly referencing other blogger's recommendations or GoodReads. As I walked around, I was determined to buy something just by looking at the cover and reading the synopsis - no checking for other people's opinions! That's how I came to buy Girlchild. It's the story of Rory Hendrix, a young girl growing up with her mom in a trailer park and how Rory finds solace in an old copy of a Girl Scouts handbook that she's read more times than she can count.

The book was very different from what I expected it to be. Chapters are told in fragments, jumping from one moment of Rory's life to another. The chapters could be anywhere from a paragraph to a few pages. Written straight-forward from Rory's perspective or stream-of-conscious style or letters to/from her grandmother. It's a writing style that didn't work for me 100% of the time but when it did, it really hit the mark and I couldn't help getting emotional over the more tragic moments in Rory's life. And there are a lot of them. I was intrigued by Rory and her complex feelings towards her mother and the lifestyle they lead. She loves the two women in her life - her mother and her grandmother - and they want Rory to be different. They got pregnant at young ages, chose not-so-great men, no academic pursuits. They're determined that she be more. And deep down Rory wants that too. But just as much as she wants to go down a different road they did, she never wants to drift too far and leave them behind either. Even though I didn't fully connect to her, there was something about her I understood anyway and always sympathized with. 

(Some) reservations: As I mentioned earlier, the writing style didn't always work for me. Sometimes it felt too abrupt and I didn't get what I had hoped - which was usually more.  I wanted more of Rory's thoughts on everything, more about her mother, her grandmother and the other people in her life. Also, I couldn't figure out when this all was happening. Was it present day or set in the 1950s? I have no idea. There are other parts of the book which were a bit vague too and in hindsight, I see it's supposed to be up for your own interpretation but at the time, I was a little confused. 

Do I recommend?: Even though I didn't love, love Girlchild, I'm glad I gave it a chance. It was something different from what I usually read and sometimes it's good to take a break from your typical books. If this sounds interesting, I think it could be worth checking out from the library. 

Happy reading!

1 comment:

  1. This definitely doesn't sound like your usual reading fare, but it also sounds pretty good in its uniqueness. I'm curious about it, especially because I have no idea how Rory will reconcile everything in her life. Glad you at least found it a worthwhile reading experience! (PS - Can WE go to Shakespeare and Co?)

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