Lamirand’s memoir, a debut, recounts the friendships she formed during her first few years at Colorado College in the mid-’90s.
With wistful eloquence, Lamirand writes of “experiencing the beautiful beginning of what would become a bittersweet story of friendship and…blossoming into young adulthood” when she started college. Introverted, used to living in her family’s home, and prone to comparing the real world with Anne of Green Gables (“I could relate little to our modern times”), she was naïve at first, but she quickly met a group of girls who put her at ease: “the group,” whose members included beautiful Sophie and grunge-loving Selena, grew close through their shared experiences and explorations—primarily those related to young love. Lamirand developed an infatuation with Stéphane, a classmate who kept his distance, and all the girls displayed their creativity through the nicknames they bestowed upon the boys they met—Sexy Ears Sam and Squeaky Voice Gothic Boy. The title of Lamirand’s memoir may seem macabre—and the group did experiment with forming a coven—but her story is one of life’s daily dramas, all small in the grand scheme but monumental as they occur. (The title is a reference both to the author of the 1963 novel The Group and to the R.E.M. song “Exhuming McCarthy.”) Evocative images and impressions permeate the recollections, as when Lamirand writes of one of the group members, “Leigh always used her cigarette to express herself—with grace, sexuality, or pain—even with no one else around.” For readers of a certain generation, the mid-to-late ’90s setting is bound to evoke memories, particularly when references are made to The Limited, My So-Called Life, Pearl Jam, and other cultural markers. Jessica’s trajectory may be a common one, of which she is aware, but it’s told with uncommon finesse and warmth. It’s not told with brevity. The nearly 500 pages might have been condensed without loss to the overall effect, and the ending does not answer as many questions as might be desired.
A nostalgia-infused ode to youthful stumbles and joys.