A winning debut in which growing up happens fast—and all out of order—for one young girl.
It starts in West Virginia when Dorothy (Dottie) is just nine. She loves her developmentally stunted younger brother, Gabe, but everything else is pretty much a wash. All the worse, her mother is making them move with her boyfriend, the eternally drunken and good-for-nothing Lyle, to a tiny town in Washington. After the move, things are more or less the same, except that Dottie starts getting older and, ever so subtly noted by newcomer Paul, figuring out her place in the world. Dottie spends a lot of time obsessing over her real father, who lives back in Cleveland, and over Lyle’s complete lack of usefulness, but it’s in the parsing of the everyday traumas and epiphanies of childhood that Paul’s fiction starts to pop off the page. While the candles on Dottie’s birthday cakes have barely gotten into the double digits, she is already carrying the weight of a full-grown adult on her tomboyish shoulders and acting appropriately. Fighting for a place on the football team, dreaming of being a virtuoso saxophonist, drinking Wild Turkey with her best friend, and shyly eyeing the high-school boy she’s too terrified to speak to, Dottie is a welter of spark and promise who seems almost destined to burn out before the final page. Unavoidably, A Girl, in Parts<\I> pays lip service to several standard rites-of-passage moments but thankfully avoids the vast majority of the coming-of-age drama, managing to show there’s just as many ways to write about becoming an adolescent as there are adolescents.
One tough heroine and a clear-eyed author willing to go take her wherever she needs to go, honestly and without compromise.