BookBrowse Reviews Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Girlchild

A Novel

by Tupelo Hassman

Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman X
Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2012, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2013, 288 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A heart-wrenching debut about a sassy girl struggling to find her way out of her lot in life: a Reno trailer park

One of the biggest trends in fiction writing over the past several years has been the popularization of so-called flash fiction, ultra-short stories whose precise and sparing use of language often resembles poetry as much as it does fiction. Part of the surprising beauty of Tupelo Hassman's debut novel, Girlchild, is that many of the small vignettes that make up the short chapters read like superbly crafted flash fiction. It shouldn't be a surprise, really, since Hassman has published flash fiction on such sites as 100wordstory.org. Here, though, the pieces, each of which could stand on its own, combine to become far more than their expected sum.

Hassman also experiments with form in the novel, utilizing documentation such as social workers' reports and whimsical elements like mathematical word problems. Not only do these materials tell Hassman's story in an unusual and flexible way; they also highlight Rory Dawn's creativity and intelligence in a particularly vivid example of "showing, not telling."

Most consistent - and heartbreaking - are Rory's repeated considerations of the Girl Scout Handbook, which she checks out of the library so often that she almost literally reads it to pieces. Her desire to live up to the Girl Scout ideals, and her growing awareness that her sense of "girlhood" is worlds away from the one in the Handbook, provides insights into her situation far more gut-wrenching than most straightforward narratives could give. In the section entitled, "Proficiency Badge: Puberty," for example, the first of Rory's suggested activities is "Act as if you know more about the following things than you do: sanitary pads, parked cars, birth control, love."

Love, in fact, is possibly the most complicated notion in Rory's small childhood world. Her sexual abuse at the hands of a trusted adult forever alters her conception of sexual love. Her mother's near-obsessive protection (and equally passionate neglect) often leads Rory to wonder why she warrants so much of her mother's anxiety, not to mention her hopes and dreams. All around her, Rory sees images of love that are bleak, soulless, or downright warped - how is a girl to find proper role models in a place like The Calle trailer park?

Although Hassman's novel is, undeniably, a series of small gems tied together by one character in search of answers, it's also a broader meditation on what it means to grow up female in small town America. The novel is set in the 1980s on the outskirts of Reno, Nevada, but dead-end communities and hopeless cases are neither geographically nor chronologically specific. Rory is, like countless others, a bright spot in an otherwise bleak landscape. Midway through the novel, Rory throws a spelling bee on purpose because "the next level will take me farther away, in dresses I don't have, on days off Mama won't get." Although in the end Rory's story is far from rosy and her path far from clear, the reader is left feeling that, for once, Rory might have overcome both nature and nurture to come up with the right answer after all.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl

This review was originally published in March 2012, and has been updated for the February 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Girl Scouts of the USA

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Only Child
    Only Child
    by Rhiannon Navin
    Rhiannon Navin's debut novel, Only Child received an overall score of 4.8 out of 5 from BookBrowse ...
  • Book Jacket: Brass
    Brass
    by Xhenet Aliu
    In 1996, Waterbury, Connecticut is a town of abandoned brass mills. Eighteen-year-old Elsie ...
  • Book Jacket: Timekeepers
    Timekeepers
    by Simon Garfield
    If you can spare three minutes and 57 seconds, you can hear the driving, horse-gallop beat of Sade&#...
  • Book Jacket: How to Stop Time
    How to Stop Time
    by Matt Haig
    Tom Hazard, the protagonist of How to Stop Time, is afflicted with a condition of semi-immortality ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

A nuanced portrait of war, and of three women haunted by the past and the secrets they hold.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The French Girl
    by Lexie Elliott

    An exhilarating debut psychological suspense novel for fans of Fiona Barton and Ruth Ware.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Only Child
    by Rhiannon Navin

    A dazzling, tenderhearted debut about healing, family, and the exquisite wisdom of children.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Beartown

Now in Paperback!

From the author of a A Man Called Ove, a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T I M A Slip B C A L

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.