Synopses & Reviews
In a sparkling debut, Karen Lee Boren offers an exquisitely rendered coming of age story about adolescent girls in small-town Wisconsin who learn that life's real perils exist where they never imagined: in their own neighborhoods and homes. During a single summer in the 1970s, five friends while away the hours by torturing the Avon lady, playing four square, jumping rope, swimming, and perfecting the art of sneaking out for night runs to the lake. Then one night the unthinkable happens, forcing the girls into a world beyond childhood and the pull of young friendship.
"Set during the 1970s in a neighborhood of eastern Europeans near the shores of Lake Michigan, this crisp, self-assured tale of five girls, ranging in age from 11 to 13, is told collectively, in the first-person plural, and centers on the group's athletic ringleader, Jeanne Macek. The only daughter of 12 siblings, Jeanne possesses an extra, baby thumb on one hand that, rather than being an object of scorn, holds talismanic power for the group. Spying on the ripe, perfumed Mrs. Sobczyk as she makes her Avon lady rounds, or witnessing the sexual wrestling of Jeanne's dreamy older brother, Joey, and his lovely girlfriend up the street, they are fascinated and repelled. Then Jeanne's parents trick her into going away; on her return, the spell of childhood vanishes: Jeanne is pressed increasingly into household chores, and one of the girls, Lauren Jankowski, awakens sexually and challenges Jeanne's authority. Although it lacks the elegance of Jeffrey Eugenides's similar debut, The Virgin Suicides, Boren hits her mark. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The dreamy plural voice that tells this story evokes, perfect pitch, the collective comingled self of American female adolescence. In suburban summer boredom, Boren's girls endear and endanger themselves, playing games with deadly consequences." Antonya Nelson, author of Female Trouble
"In the vein of Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye or Jeffrey Eugenides' Virgin Suicides, here's a coming-of-age story with a little extra a feel for the innocent omniscience of children, a stealing sense of dread, and (not least) a mysterious, fetishized third thumb. Boren's tale glows with the luminous hyperreality of nostalgia, without the rosy sentimentality that usually entails." Peter Ho Davies, author of Equal Love
"Karen Lee Boren's novella beautifully differentiates itself by taking us inside that little-known tribe we call girlhood. Who can resist the restless energy, the strength, and the wholeness of these hard-worked midwestern daughters before they individuate into women in this perilous world? Not this reader. I love these girls." Cathleen Calbert, author of Bad Judgment
"The collective voice that drives Karen Lee Boren's first novel is rapturous and steely-eyed at once, and this book beautifully captures the gestures and sensations huge, tiny, exquisite, and excruciating of her girls in peril. One is left elated by the power of this story, and marveling at Boren's skill." Sam Lipsyte, author of Home Land
During a single summer in the 1970s, five 12-year-old girls learn that danger lies not in the external world of their night runs, where parents and their own fertile imaginations conjure visions of anonymous murderers, rapists, and other mysterious figures lurking in the nearby woods. They discover it instead in places they never would have thought to look: in their neighborhood and homes; in uncomprehending parents who steal their time and freedom (and, in one bizarre case, a thumb); in the pull of an uncertain world beyond their all-important friendships; and in their own burgeoning sexuality. Karen Lee Borens vivid novel, the premier book in the Tin House New Voice series, begins in the collective first-person point of view, but gradually this reassuring group identity splinters as the girls mature and violence close to home threatens to split them apart for good.
During a 1970s summer, five adolescent girls learn that peril exists where they never imagined: in their neighborhood and homes; in parents who steal their time and freedom (and, in one case, a thumb); in the pull of the world beyond their friendships; and in their own burgeoning sexuality.
About the Author
Karen Lee Boren received her MFA from Wichita State University and a PhD in English at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She teaches literature and creative writing at Rhode Island College. Her fiction has appeared in the Florida Review, Night Train, Karamu, Hawai'i Pacific Review, and Dominion Review. Her nonfiction has appeared in Cream City Review and the Lonely Planet anthology Rite of Passage: Tales of Backpacking 'Round Europe.