Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman

Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman is an unexpected debut novel that blurs the line between young adult and literary fiction with the story of Rory Hendrix, who lives in a Reno trailer park with her mother and is “third generation in a line of apparent imbeciles, feeble-minded bastards surely on the road to whoredom.” 

Rory happens to have a copy of the Girl Scout Handbook she's borrowed from the library and she pours over it for advice. Unfortunately, the Girl Scout connection was probably my least favourite part of the novel, it often felt forced or unnecessary to me, like Hassman thought the book needed a gimmick. With writing this strong, it certainly didn’t.

Because easily my favourite thing about Girlchild was the words. Beautiful, deep, powerful words that left an impact long after I finished reading them. Instead of chapters, the novel is divided up so that every page or so is it's own little story– which sometimes made it a bit confusing when one bit was ending and a new one was beginning as I listened to it on audiobook, but usually just meant that a scene was over before I knew it, like a quick punch to the gut before it was time for something else. Interestingly, the audiobook is actually narrated by Tupelo Hassman, and she is one of the rare authors that can actually do a fantastic job reading it, so that I definitely enjoyed listening.

Hassman's incredible writing allows her to really create a believable setting, letting the reader into this trailer park world, where kids growing up never thinking they'll amount to anything. It was both devastating and illuminating to read about. The majority of the novel wasn't things I could relate to, but somehow with Hassman's words, they felt real. That said, it wasn't pity that I felt for Rory. Instead it was laughter and pain and joy, it was something incredibly human and real.

Coming away from Girlchild I am left with two messages: one, that it's horrible that kids really do have to grow up in conditions like Rory Hendrix, and I hope we can do as much as possible to fix that, and two, that Hassman is a brilliant writer and I will absolutely be picking up whatever she writes next.

Release Date: February 14th 2012  Pages: 275  Format: Audiobook/Hardcover 
Source: Edelweiss/Publisher  Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux  Buy It: Book Depository

This is a review by ZoĆ«. You can find her here on Goodreads or on Twitter @strandedhero

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