Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012, 275 pages)
Tupelo Hassman has a gift for language and this is clearly seen in her novel Girlchild. I listened to this as an audiobook (narrated by the author) and while I enjoyed the book, I think I would have appreciated it and the writing more if I had read a physical copy. There are some books that are best experienced by reading the words on the page rather than being read to. Hassman did a good job providing the voice for her main character, Rory Dawn, but I don’t think the story itself was done justice.
Set primarily in the 1980s the book follows Rory Dawn from about the age of 6 to 16. She lives in a trailer in Reno with her mother, Johanna. Rory has come from a line of women who got pregnant early and her mother wants to save her from the same fate. Rory’s mother and grandmother want to see her get out of the trailer park altogether, they have high hopes for her and her talent in school speaks to her potential. A central aspect of the book is that Rory has always wanted to be a Girl Scout. Even though she can’t afford to join a troop she has checked out the Girl Scout Handbook so regularly from her school library that the librarian put it in the “sale” pile and made sure that Rory knew when and where to pick it up.
Rory’s life isn’t an easy one but she makes the most of it and her family does what they can to try and protect her. I’m glad I picked this up and would recommend it, but don’t expect it to be a “feel good” novel – appreciate it for the language and the talent of the author.