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Noyes explores the lives of girls and women in coastal Maine in her debut collection of short stories.

A college student discovers she's pregnant; two sisters argue about whether or not they're "white trash"; a young woman imagines she sees the mother who abandoned her in a stranger on a bus. Noyes writes convincingly about the landscape—"It was three o'clock, but nearly dark outside, and the bus headlights sparkled against the ice-encased birches"—and the working class—"My mom's front teeth had these tiny chips at the bottom, because when she was little she'd chew on bottle caps." Though the stories, told from various points of view, contain threats of violence from rapists and molesters, the greatest menace comes from the harm the young female protagonists seem capable of bringing on themselves. They lie, they steal from friends, they pursue doomed romances and sabotage good ones. In "Drawing Blood," a teenage girl in the early 1900s begins a love affair with the family's maid, then marries the wealthy suitor her parents choose; the maid is summarily fired. The most interesting relationships here are the unlikely alliances that offer unexpected comfort. The college student who learns she's pregnant finds an ally in her boyfriend's dying mother. In the title story, the teenage narrator, home from boarding school, takes a road trip with her mother and stepfather. She's alarmed when the mother abandons him en route, "standing outside the store, our two hot chocolates in his hands." Returning for him later on her own, she fails to find him. Like many of these stories, this one ends obliquely, with the narrator driving alone. The open-endedness, which works better in some stories than others, signals a writer who values nuance over tidy endings.

These flawed female characters struggle to survive against threats both external and internal in this well-written debut.

Pub Date: June 7th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-8021-2484-5
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2016


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