Thursday, January 10, 2013
The Talk-funny Girl by Roland Merullo (Goodreads)
Publisher: Crown Trade/Broadway Paperbacks (an imprint of Random House)
Publication Date: August 21, 2012
Source: Received from the publisher for review (Thanks!)
Marjorie is raised by parents so intentionally isolated from normal human society that they develop their own dialect, a kind of mountain hybrid of English that displays both their ignorance of and disdain for the wider world. As the nearby factory town sinks deeper into economic ruin, Marjorie is rescued from her own private hell in unique fashion: she is hired by a man, himself a victim of abuse, who is building what he calls "a cathedral," right in the center of town. Day by day, Marjorie's skills as a stoneworker increase, and so does her discomfort with the bitter rules of her family life. Slowly, she discovers what is lovable within herself, and this new confidence enables her to break free, start a family of her own, and try to fully heal her wounds without passing the pain on to her own children. (from publisher's email)
Sometimes, it's the books that take more time to read that pack a bigger punch. The Talk-Funny Girl certainly had me taking my time, but all the effort I poured into it was well-rewarded. This sad, yet hopeful story of this unusual heroine was deeply moving, though at times I just wanted to set the book down to give myself a break from the trauma.
The writing is easy to follow, and the story is very straightforward, which should have made it a regular read. What made the book hard to read were some of the more traumatic events that Marjorie, called Majie by her parents, went through. It was very sad and very terrible to read about her lifestyle, her parents and all the difficult things she has to deal with. I honestly don't know what I was expecting going in, but I certainly wasn't expecting to be brought to the brink of tears and fear from reading about Marjorie's life.
Marjorie's parents are very isolated and very specific about the beliefs they embrace. While the reader will experience certain moments of vulnerability and sensitivity from them, it is very sad indeed how they act towards their child and towards each other. While no parents or people are perfect, the life they made for Marjorie was very different from most people's lives - and the idea of that made me sad.
One specific example is their speech - it's English, but a backwards form of it that jumbles up words and tenses. This obviously isolates Marjorie from her school mates and prevents her from lapsing into normal conversation with other people. It even fosters a bit of a disconnect from the reader, as it certainly requires some getting used to when reading her bits of dialogue.
I've been focusing a lot on the sad parts of the book, so now it's time to focus on the happier, more hopeful bits. Marjorie finds a purpose in stonework, when she apprentices with a man determined to build a cathedral. It was a joy to know that she had discovered something that she personally enjoyed doing, and that inspired her to think out of the box and reach for the "more" she otherwise thought impossible with her situation. Any person wtih a particular passion is interesting to read about, and it's even more so in Marjorie's case, as it draws her out of the disillusioned world of lies that she's grown up in.
Plus, there are two supportive new people in her life - the cathedral builder, Sands, and her aunt Elaine. Though she came from a dysfunctional family, these two positive influences help her realize the dire level of her situation and provide a steady source of kindness and strength. It's interesting to note that Marjorie's reactions to their initial goodness towards her are so realistic - it's hard to trust in the good, when all your life you've only lived with the bad. But it's wonderful to go along with Marjorie on her journey, as she learns to trust, learns to hope and learns to stand up for herself.
Though this novel was very difficult for me to read, I find that I can say that The Talk-Funny Girl is a book that I truly found moving. Though the heroine experienced so much trauma and suffering at a very young age, it is truly amazing to see how she is able to learn to let go of her past and keep pressing forward to a hopeful, better future. I enjoyed this book thoroughly, and would highly recommend it to those who are the type to root for a character to finally get the good, happy ending they deserve.