What it is: The Talk-Funny Girl by Roland Merullo is a novel about Marjorie, a 17-year-old girl living in rural New Hampshire, and the challenges she faces growing up in a more or less abusive home where her parents keep her isolated and even use their own strange dialect of English. After getting a job as a stoneworker, she begins to separate from her deeply-entrenched perspectives and develop her own sense of self.
What I liked about it: Marjorie’s character is complex; Merullo doesn’t try to sugarcoat any element of her difficult coming of age. She grapples with everything she thought she knew–her religious beliefs, her familial obligations, her faith in people, her unique language, and her own independent understanding of herself. Merullo handles the combination of all these elements beautifully and without undermining any individual one or devolving into cliche. My heart ached for Marjorie, including a few tears in my eyes toward the end. This novel is definitely a powerful read.
What I didn’t like about it: Subplots are great, they make for great twists and keep readers on their toes, but Merullo’s subplot about disappearing teenage girls didn’t quite do it for me. It came up periodically and eventually tied together at the end, but I would’ve preferred that either 1) it be a more important point throughout the story OR 2) it begin later in the novel, so it seemed more relevant and timely.
Memorable quote: “I let a little candle of hope go on inside me, one little impossible light…You keep telling yourself it will be different. Year after year, time after time, you keep telling yourself things might change. It’s what makes people go back to people they shouldn’t ever go back to.”
Overall rating: 5/5 stars.
Challenge satisfied: #11, read a YA novel.
Additional notes: While I would classify this as a YA novel because it’s a coming-of-age story, it has a lot of strong themes of religion, sex, and violence that might be disturbing to younger teenagers. It’s heavy enough to be an adult novel, but I’d classify the ideal age range for this book to be 16-19 years old.
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