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Monday, November 14, 2011

The Talk-Funny Girl Bleak, But Powerful

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"I had my protective shell of funny talk and shyness, but underneath that lived a wilder me, a girl who would take punishment, and take it, and take it, but who would never let go of herself all the way, never completely surrender" (87).

Marjorie Richards knows all about fear. The 17-year-old can't go home without feeling it, she can't walk the school corridors without experiencing it and, now that teenage girls are disappearing in her rural New Hampshire community, she can't go anywhere at all without constantly looking over her shoulder. Marjorie's reclusive parents have always told her the outside world isn't safe - she's starting to believe them.

Unlike her parents, though, Marjorie can't hide out in the hills. She's required by law to attend school. Even though her classmates snicker about the way she talks, her teachers raise their eyebrows at her bruises, and more than one boy makes it clear what he wants from her, Marjorie craves the normality of it all. When she's hired to help Arturo "Sands" Ivers, a 24-year-old stranger in town, build a church, she spends even more time basking in the freedom of life away from her cruel parents. As intoxicating as it is to be out from under their constant supervision, Marjorie's afraid to step too far away from her mother and father. She pities them, but mostly she fears what they will do if she dares defy them. The paycheck she brings them every month may be the only thing that keeps them from killing her outright.

As Marjorie grows more comfortable with her job as an assistant stonemason - and with her inscrutable boss - she feels her confidence growing. But will it be enough to save her from her parents' escalating sadism? Or the vicious murderer, who may be closer to Marjorie than she knows? Will it be enough to rescue her from the squalid fate for which she seems destined? Or will she become just another victim - of poverty, of abuse, and of a violent killer?

The Talk-Funny Girl by Roland Merullo is as depressing as it sounds, but it's also an evocative, intimate novel about one girl's resilience in the face of unspeakable abuse. It's personal, painful, and, ultimately, hopeful - although in a way that's imperfect enough to be believable. The story is not an easy one to read and yet, I couldn't put it down. While I can't say I loved The Talk-Funny Girl, I can say I won't forget it anytime soon.

(Readalikes: Reminds me a lot of Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell and a little of Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer)

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: R for mild language, sexual innuendo/content, and violence

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of The Talk-Funny Girl from the generous folks at Crown Publishers. Thank you!


  1. See...I can't do bleak. I can't even handle gripping or poignant most of the time! :)

  2. Yours is the second excellent review I've read of this book. I think it's time to put it on my wish list!


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