MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Excerpt from The Girls with No Names by Serena Burdick, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Girls with No Names

by Serena Burdick

The Girls with No Names by Serena Burdick X
The Girls with No Names by Serena Burdick
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  • Published:
    Jan 2020, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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Print Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE
Effie

Luella and I carved our place in the world together. More accurately, my sister carved and I followed, my notches secured inside the boundary of hers. She was older, courageous and unpredictable, which made it a natural mistake.

"Luella?" I called, afraid my sister would lose me.

"I'm right here," I heard, only I couldn't see her.

A moonless night had swallowed the woods of the upper Manhattan isle that we knew so well in daylight. Now we were stumbling, running blindly, bumping into one tree, turning and bumping into another, our hands held out in front of us, everything foreign and out of shape.

From the depths of my blindness, my sister grabbed my arm and yanked me to a halt. I gasped for breath, my heart rattling my whole body. There wasn't a star in the sky. My sister's hand on my arm was the only proof I had that she stood next to me.

"Are you all right? Can you breathe?" she asked.

"I'm fine, but I hear the creek."

"I know," Luella groaned.

It meant we'd gone in the wrong direction. We should have gone directly over the hill to Bolton Road. Now we were near Spuyten Duyvil Creek and farther from our house than when we'd started.

"We should find the road and follow it home," I said. At least on the road there would be lights from houses.

"That will take twice as long. Mama and Daddy will have the police out looking for us by then."

Our parents were worriers—Daddy for our physical well-being, Mama for our souls. I still wanted to take the road because, either way, they'd be searching soon. "It's better than not getting home at all," I pleaded.

Luella moved forward, pulling me with her until she stopped abruptly. "I feel something." She took another step. "It's a woodpile. There must be a house around here."

"We'd see a light," I whispered, the ground squishy under my feet and pungent with the smell of manure.

"It's worth finding out." Luella let go of me. "I'm going on ahead. Follow the woodpile."

I traced my gloved hands over the rough, rounded logs until they ended and I dropped a step into empty space, the darkness like a blindfold I wanted to rip off. I could hear the rush of the creek nearby. What if we walked straight into it? A few steps more and my shoulder grazed a tree. I stretched out my arm. The trunk was massive. I followed it, my gloves snagging over the dips and grooves in the calloused bark until I suddenly knew where we were.

"Lu!" I gasped. "We're at the Tulip Tree."

Her footsteps halted. Luella and I were staunch believers in ghost tales, and everyone knew the story of the oysterman who hung himself in the rickety house next to the Tulip Tree. We'd never dared come this close to the house; not even in the light of day had we found the courage to do more than peek from the hilltop.

There was a hiss of air through Luella's teeth, and her tone grew sturdy. "Even if it is haunted, someone lives here. At least it's too dark to see the oysterman's ghost dangling from a rope in the window."

This was not reassuring. My throat constricted, and my breath caught in my lungs. Luella had always been braver than me. Even in normal situations I panicked with shyness. Now I was frozen solid, and as always when afraid, my imagination took over.

When day breaks, the girls are nowhere to be found. The sun rises and warms the hill where they last stood. The river swells in the distance under the boat of an early rising fisherman who pulls up his net, the light catching the silver fish as they writhe in protest. He dumps them on his deck and catches sight of something floating in the water—a back, curved, buoyed to the surface by a skirt that bubbles up like a bloated fish. The girl's face is in the water, her dark hair trailing from her head like seaweed caught on a rock.

Excerpted from The Girls with No Names by Serena Burdick, Copyright © 2020 by Serena Burdick. Published by Park Row Books.

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