Mannequin Girl: Book summary and reviews of Mannequin Girl by Ellen Litman

Mannequin Girl

by Ellen Litman

Mannequin Girl by Ellen Litman X
Mannequin Girl by Ellen Litman
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2014
    352 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

"A perfect little figure," he says. "Our mannequin girl." She knows who mannequin girls are. They are in her grandmother's Working Woman magazines, modeling flouncy dresses and berets. "Bend," he tells her, and she does, so pliant, so obedient."

Growing up in Soviet Russia, Kat Knopman worships her parents, temperamental Anechka and soft-hearted, absent-minded Misha. Young Jewish intellectuals, they teach literature at a Moscow school, run a drama club, and dabble in political radicalism. Kat sees herself as their heir and ally. But when she's diagnosed with rapidly-progressing scoliosis, the trajectory of her life changes and she finds herself at a different institution - a school-sanatorium for children with spinal ailments. Confined to a brace, surrounded by unsympathetic peers, Kat embarks on a quest to prove that she can be as exceptional as her parents: a beauty, an intellect, and free spirit despite her physical limitations, her Jewishness, and her suspicion that her beloved parents are in fact flawed. Can a girl with a crooked spine really be a mannequin girl, her parents' pride and her doctors' and teachers' glory? Or will she prove to be something far more ordinary - and, thereby, more her own? An unforgettable heroine, Kat will have to find the courage to face the world and break free not only of her metal brace but of all the constraints that bind her.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Readers who can make it through the book's grim early section will be interested to see how Kat does when the brace finally come off." - Publishers Weekly

"Smart, highly readable fiction propelled by a vulnerable and crankily appealing heroine." - Kirkus

"Coming of age is pretty tough as it is. Now imagine going through it in a back brace. And in Soviet Russia. In her beautiful and tender novel, Ellen Litman shows the pain, awkwardness and isolation of adolescence better than anybody else." - Lara Vapnyar

"Kat is a wonderfully vivid character and I loved reading about her perilous years as a mannequin girl. If only they didn't have to end, at least for the reader." - Margot Livesey

"Ellen Litman notices and captures details that electrify her writing. Her novel's premise is fascinating and its execution is skillful. Kat Knopman is a protagonist like none other I've come across." - Liz Moore

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Author Information

Ellen Litman

Ellen Litman is the author of the story collection The Last Chicken in America, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times First Fiction Award and for the Young Lions Fiction Award. She has been the recipient of the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award, and her work has appeared in Best New American Voices, Best of Tin House, American Odysseys: Writing by New Americans, Dossier, Triquarterly, Ploughshares, and other publications. Born in Moscow, she teaches writing at the University of Connecticut and lives in Mansfield.

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