By Elizabeth Wroten
Review: Girlchild by Tuppelo Hassman
On 13, Mar 2013 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten
Rory Hendrix, the least likely of Girl Scouts, hasn’t got a troop or a badge to call her own. But she still borrows the Handbook from the elementary school library to pore over its advice, looking for tips to get off the Calle—the Reno trailer park where she lives with her mother, Jo, the sweet-faced, hard-luck bartender at the Truck Stop.
Rory’s been told she is one of the “third-generation bastards surely on the road to whoredom,” and she’s determined to break the cycle. As Rory struggles with her mother’s habit of trusting the wrong men, and the mixed blessing of being too smart for her own good, she finds refuge in books and language. From diary entries, social workers’ reports, story problems, arrest records, family lore, and her grandmother’s letters, Tupelo Hassman’s Girlchild crafts a devastating collage that shows us Rory’s world while she searches for the way out of it.
I thought I would enjoy this one a lot more than I did. Probably because I found the description a bit misleading. Girlchild was certainly a tragic and touching story about poverty in the U.S. And Rory is at least a very insightful (may a little too insightful for her age?) narrator. However, I never got an overwhelming impression that Rory saw her life outside the trailer park; at least not until the last page. Her stream of consciousness narration in certain chapters was not only a unique way to tell parts of her story, parts that are very, very dark and troubling, but they were also reminiscent of what adult recollections of childhood memories are- disjointed impressions with flashes of clarity.
It was certainly an enjoyable book to read, if you can use the descriptor “enjoyable” for a book about loss, extreme poverty, molestation, abuse, and stereotyping. Fictional or real these kinds of stories need to be told both to raise awareness and to comfort those with similar stories. I found it to be incredibly moving despite my initial misconception and a few minor irks along the way.
As a side note, hooray for the sympathetic librarian! Rory may not have explicitly recognized her quiet kindness, but she is a lovely character the few times we meet her.