What Stacy is Reading Now: Girls I Know by Douglas Trevor
It’s been a long time since I was so engrossed in a book that I read it until I fell asleep…and then got up and read with PJs and coffee as soon as I woke up. Girls I Know was one of those books. I started it on a rainy Memorial Day weekend (while the 39-year-old and 7-year-old in my life played marathon games of Pokemon), and I was finished just two days later. Now, I kind of want to start over and read it again.
Girls was written by my super supportive and funny dissertation director, Doug, and that’s initially why I picked it up. It’s not surprising that a novel about an unmotivated Harvard English ABD was easily relatable and amusing to me (who doesn’t find jokes about stuffy academics and exhaustively detailed thesis topics funny? I don’t want to be friends with those people). At the same time, it’s what I couldn’t relate to – complicated characters dealing with financial concerns, trying to reconcile large social issues like class and race, encountering family tragedy and loneliness in a way I’ve never had to – that drew me in. Main character Walt and his neighbor/sometime lady-friend/co-dependent fellow confused young adult Ginger are simultaneously sympathetic and unsympathetic to the readers, and as we try to figure out if we feel sorry for them or want to scream at them (or both), we are hooked. And, by the end of the book, we are left wondering if we agree with poet Walt or philosopher Ginger: is life just a haphazard mess of events, or is there some narrative or purpose that connects it? There are no easy answers in this novel (or, indeed, in fictional and real lives).
As a sidenote: I also felt connected to this novel because of its intricate detail about life in Boston. It’s a place I’ve never been, but one I’ve felt connected to since the Boston Marathon bombings in April. As a runner, I shared in the grief of all those in that city…and as a reader of Girls I Know a few months later, I kept pondering how we are to come to terms with “evil” and unexpected violence.