The Longings of Wayward Girls by Karen Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The first half of this book passed like the setting of the story, the slow unfolding of a suburban summer. It was okay, not great, not bad. Then, as soon as I hit the half-way point, it really picked up, and I couldn't put it down until nearly the end.
There are two stories here, centering on one character. There is twelve-year-old Sadie together with her friend Betty, using the long summer days to play an ongoing prank on a slightly younger neighborhood girl, as well as to nurse a resentment against her sexy unstable mother, and to do for the last time some of the things belonging to her childhood, and to try for the first time things like boys, cigarettes, and beer.
Then there is grown-up Sadie, with two children of her own, trying to sort out her grief over her stillborn daughter, and her desire to escape her suburban role to have an affair with a local man. Through all of this, the reader is taken through a maze of intersecting plot lines about missing girls, chances and mistakes, and yes, the longings of wayward--or indeed every--girl and woman. It's a story about the history of a place, the connections of mothers and daughters, and the price to be paid for the things we do, and then regret.
Once the book grabbed me mid-way through, I loved it, but it did take a long meandering time to get to that point. Nonetheless, I do recommend this very good debut novel. If you grew up in the 70s in American suburbia as I did, you'll relate.
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