A debut offers the beginning of a novel in serial form, following a teenage girl fleeing her abusive home in 1980s Louisiana.
A missing poster boasts $10,000, presumably a reward for information to help find 18-year-old Missi Piessy. But the young lady with a “puppy face” carrying a high school gym bag calls herself Bridget. Coming from Boottown, Baton Rouge, a week before Christmas in 1983, Bridget rides the trolley in New Orleans, getting off at 2nd Chance Clothing. Owner Hilma Burtte can see the reticent girl is hiding something—or possibly running away, her temple sporting a pronounced bruise. Bridget, careful not to say too much to Hilma or her daughter Clair Wildes, buys a wool coat and turns down the owner’s offer of money or a part-time job. Bridget later splurges on a catfish po’ boy but eventually makes her way to a homeless shelter. There, she meets volunteer Marvin, who may have sinister motives, trying to convince Bridget the shelter won’t take her right away and suggesting she stay at his place. The novel’s first volume ends with a short but ominous flashback to the day before. As her drunk mother sleeps, Bridget packs her bag with essentials, including a switchblade, preparing for an uncertain future. The author sets the story’s tone immediately, opening with the photo of a girl in pigtails. Details, of course, are sparse, but it’s evident that Bridget’s escaping her mother, at one point recalling Mom screaming for her glass. Bridget, too, is savvy, not readily fooled by Marvin, even suspecting he’s recited his spiel to other girls. Despite the volume’s relatively short length, Honest manages nuance, providing a back story for Hilma, who decades ago worked at a brothel, the Cherry. Dialogue is the phonetic rendering of the New Orleans dialect Yat; readers may have to read a few lines aloud, but it’s perfectly clear, for example, what “Dank ya” is. At the same time, the narrative’s prose is often foreboding, like Madam Selma White aiming a pistol at a belligerent client: “Her eyes focused on his entirety, wary of sudden movements while her index waited by the trigger.”
An impressive launch of what has the potential to be an exemplary tale about a runaway.