Girls grow up, it is just not always pretty – Three books, three girls

October 9, 2013 at 9:10 pm 1 comment

I seem to have run into a theme, it was an accident I swear.  The last three books I read have been about three girls and the things that make them grow up – always too quickly and harshly.  They were all interesting in their own ways and though I am ready to leave the theme behind they are worth checking out (some more than others).

1.  Cemetery Girl by David Bell (Published in 2011) – This was absolutely one of the most disturbing books I have ever read, it is just haunting.  Tom and Abbey have a beautiful daughter, Caitlin. They are doting parents, middle class, educated, they have done everything right. When Caitlin is twelve years old she disappears while out walking the family dog.  The next four years Tom and Abbey hope that Caitlin will return.  But then Abbey decides to move on and have a memorial service with a gravestone engraved in Caitlin’s honor.   Tom has refused to let go and is validated when he receives a call from the police that they think they have found Caitlin alive.  And indeed it is Caitlin.  Their lives then change again as they try to adjust to the return of their daughter. Of course the question becomes is it better to be a parent who has lost a child or a parent who finds his child but they are unrecognizable and extremely damaged.   This book was painful.  As a parent it ripped my heart out.  It was well written and kept me engaged – but it is harshly realistic.

2. The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani (Published in 2013) – I am just going to say I don’t know what to make of this book. It is set in 1930s and begins with Thea, a fifteen year girl, driving with her father to a horse camp for young women from affluent families. It is clear from the outset that Thea has done something that has made her family send her away.  The author drags out the mystery a bit longer than necessary especially because you can guess pretty early on what happened (I bet you can even guess what happened at least in part).  Thea also continues to be victim to the adults around her making bad decisions. It is hard to hold her blameless because she is the narrator and seems like she is in control. But you have to remove yourself from the narrator and remind yourself that she is only 15 and really has no control over her life or what will happen next.  I found this book creepy.  And just when I felt like it was creepy enough it just got creepier.  And I am unclear if that was the author’s intent.  Out of the three this was my least favorite coming of age story.

Cover of "Moloka'i"

Cover of Moloka’i

3. Moloka’i by Alan Brennert (Published in 2004) –  If you are keeping score out of the three this is the book to read.  It was recommended by one of my favorite people and she was right – it is a great book.  At the turn of the century Rachel is 6 years old and lives with her family in Hawaii.  Her life is pretty typical until a sore on the back of her leg will not heal. Her mother immediately recognizes the signs of leprosy and is only able to hide Rachel’s illness for so long.  Eventually, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, a quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’i.  What follows is the beautiful, tragic, touching story of Rachel’s life at the settlement.  Rachel is an endearing character and the novel is well researched.  Even better Brennert’s writing is really good and his passion for his topic is evident in the depth of the story.

All of this tough coming of age stuff means it is time to read more books with adult characters – they have as much drama but without all of the hormones…or maybe I have that backwards.


Entry filed under: October 2013 reads. Tags: , , , , , , , .

The Summer Reading Finale It is all in how you tell it – “Memories of a Marriage” by Louis Begley

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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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