Summary and book reviews of Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman

Girlchild

A Novel

by Tupelo Hassman

Girlchild
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    Readers' Opinion:

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

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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About this Book

Book Summary

Tupelo Hassman’s Girlchild is a heart-stopping and original debut.

Rory Hendrix is the least likely of Girl Scouts. She hasn't got a troop or even a badge to call her own.  But she's checked the Handbook out from the elementary school library so many times that her name fills all the lines on the card, and she pores over its surreal advice (Disposal of Outgrown Uniforms; The Right Use of Your Body; Finding Your Way When Lost) for tips to get off the Calle:  that is, Calle de los Flores, the Reno trailer park where she lives with her mother, Jo, the sweet-faced, hard-luck bartender at the Truck Stop.

Rory's been told she is "third generation in a line of apparent imbeciles, feeble-minded bastards surely on the road to whoredom." But she's determined to prove the County and her own family wrong. Brash, sassy, vulnerable, wise, and terrified, she struggles with her mother's habit of trusting the wrong men, and the mixed blessing of being too smart for her own good. From diary entries, social worker's reports, half-recalled memories, story problems, arrest records, family lore, Supreme Court opinions, and her grandmother's letters, Rory crafts a devastating collage that shows us her world while she searches for the way out of it. Girlchild is a heart-stopping and original debut.

teeth

Mama always hid her mouth when she laughed. Even when she spoke too gleefully, mouth stretched too wide by those happy muscles, teeth too visible. I can still recognize someone from my neighborhood by their teeth. Or lack of them. And whenever I do, I call these people family. I know immediately that I can trust them with my dog but not with the car keys and not to remember what time, exactly, they're coming back for their kids. I know if we get into a fight and Johnny shows up we'll agree that there has been "No problem, Officer, we'll keep it down."

I know what they hide when they hide those teeth. By the time Mama was fifteen she had three left that weren't already black or getting there, and jagged. She had a long time to learn how to cover that smile. No matter how she looked otherwise, tall and long-legged, long brown hair, pale skin that held its flush, it was this something vulnerable about the mouth and eyes too that kept men coming back to her. The men would likely ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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.   (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Full Review Members Only (510 words).

Media Reviews

Library Journal

A sweet-hearted debut that women's reading groups should consider.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Despite a few jarring moments of moralizing, this debut possesses powerful writing and unflinching clarity.

Kirkus Reviews

A darkly funny and frequently heartbreaking portrait of life as one of America's have-nots.

Author Blurb Amy Greene, author of Bloodroot
From the first page of Tupelo Hassman's brilliant debut, I fell in love with its unforgettable narrator. I couldn't stop reading until the heartbreaking but hopeful end, rooting for Rory Dawn Hendrix to make her own destiny.

Author Blurb Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
This amazing debut spills over with love, but is still absolutely unflinching and real. That is no easy combo to pull off, and Tupelo Hassman does it repeatedly with precision and grace. Rory D. is ebulliently alive on the page; she's really that kind of fresh new voice people talk about, leaving us with a completely memorable character.

Author Blurb Jaimy Gordon, author of the National Book Award winner Lord of Misrule
This first novel is not like anything you or I have ever read. Something between a shocking exposé, a defiant treatise, a prose poem, and an exuberant Girl Scout manual, it is always formally inventive and bursting with energy.... [Hassman] has irrepressible high spirits, which flow forth in this case as brilliance and lyricism. Tupelo Hassman loves life in spite of everything, and you can't help loving this novel and her.

Reader Reviews

lani s

A book like no other...
Tuppman's expressive and inventive prose is a delight that lifts one's imagination with each sentence. I would often stop and picture the image that her gorgeous writing would produce. Her savage depiction of trailer park life and the woes of single ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Girl Scouts of the USA

Although many elements - from her grandma's letters, to her mother's hopes, to her friends' expectations - help shape Rory's understanding of what it means to be a girl in her small community, one institution does more than any other to shape Rory's perception of American girlhood: the Girl Scouts of the USA.

Juliette Gordon Low The Girl Scouts of the USA were founded by Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low (pictured, middle) in Savannah, Georgia, in 1912. Part of a worldwide Scouting movement founded by Robert Baden-Powell in 1909, the Girl Scouts (known as Girl Guides in the UK and Canada) believed that girls should be given opportunities to develop physically, mentally, and spiritually. A combination of domestic preparedness, civic engagement, and outdoor ...

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