‘Girlchild’ by Tupelo Hassman

In a funny, sparkling debut, abused, gifted, trailer-park child clings to Girl Scout Handbook as a road map to a better life

Time for full disclosure/shameful confession. When I first turned these pages, I thought: Uh oh, a trailer park, molesting Grandpa, gambling-addicted Grandma, drunk Mama, pedophilic “Uncles,’’ teenage pregnancies. Think Oprah, Dr. Phil, not to mention those Beans of Egypt, Maine, those Jukes of upstate New York. Mea culpa. I should have paid attention to the classic MFA workshop warning: There are no new stories. It’s how you write the old-shoe ones that makes the difference.

And what a difference Tupelo Hassman makes. “Girlchild,’’ Hassman’s debut novel, unfolds a compelling, layered narrative told by a protagonist with a voice so fresh, original, and funny you’ll be in awe. This novel rocks. In these postcards from the edge, using language both buoyant and brave, she tells the story of Rory Dawn Hendrix, who views herself as the “feebleminded daughter of a feebleminded daughter, herself the product of feebleminded stock.’’

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