“I was trying to really get into how women change as we get older, and how life events change us,” Karin Slaughter said of the main characters in her new novel, “Girl, Forgotten” (Morrow). The book’s events and characters stem from those in an earlier book, “Pieces of Her,” now a streaming series on Netflix, but it can also be read as a standalone — one in which Andrea, a newly-minted US Marshal, finds herself trying to solve the 40-year-old murder of pregnant teenager Emily.
Getting a handle on Andrea’s job required some research about marshals on Slaughter’s part. “It was just really fascinating,” the Atlanta-based writer. “They’re kind of like the Swiss army knives of federal law enforcement.”
As one storyline follows Andrea’s increasingly dangerous investigative work, another chronicles the last few months of Emily’s life, when she was a high school student. “It was kind of fun writing the ′80s,” Slaughter said. “The music alone!” (Among the clues is a mix tape on a cassette that someone — but who? — has given to Emily.)
Then an unexpected pregnancy threw a bomb into the teen’s seemingly perfect life. “People talk about getting cancelled now, but we’ve been cancelling people without the Internet for centuries. And Emily is someone who got cancelled in high school,” said Slaughter. “That’s something I remember from high school: a couple of girls who got pregnant and they just disappeared.”
Even though Emily is pregnant during a time when Roe v. Wade was in force, Slaughter said, “she had no choice” due to local gossip surrounding her pregnancy. “I grew up in a small town,” Slaughter added. “If you got in trouble on Main Street, by the time you rode your bike home there’d be somebody with a switch waiting for you. I really understand small towns, and I’m really, really grateful that I don’t live in one anymore.”
Karin Slaughter will read in person at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26, at Coolidge Corner, in an event hosted by Brookline Booksmith.
Kate Tuttle, a freelance writer and critic, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.