Friday, January 13, 2017

Girl in Pieces, by Kathleen Glasgow

Seventeen year-old Charlie has been through hell -- she's a runaway with alcohol problems, a history of physical and sexual abuse, and a tendency towards self-harm.  Her life is pretty bleak.  The story opens during her breather at a psychiatric facility, but soon she is out on the street again.  Rejected by her mother, she ends up in Arizona.  There, she finds a new home and friends (of a sort), but the situation is far from healthy and she struggles to avoid spiraling down again into madness.

The novel is bleak and yet quite compelling, even as it treads on the oft-told tale of self-harm.  But, unlike with most books about cutters, where we tend to focus on understanding the behavior, there's no mystery here about the trauma that has placed her in this madness.  Large parts of the book pretty clearly explain that!

In some ways, that lack of subtlety is a flaw of the novel.  There is no nuance or question about any of this.  As a result, our journey through Charlie's life is simply a visit of hell, without much chance of enlightenment.  It makes for a difficult read and getting through four hundred pages of this story is trying at times.  But there are some bright spots along the way from some unexpected places.

What made the read actually enjoyable (in spit of the dark subject matter) are Glasgow's rich and vivid characters.  Each one is an obvious act of love -- standing out with quirks and blemishes, and always defying stereotypes.  It took the author nine years to craft this first novel.  Hopefully, she's got more in there and can churn her next one out a bit quicker?  I'd like to see more.

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