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Big Girls

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  • Posted February 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A BOLD, POWERFUL NOVEL

    The Big Girls is not easily read. It's a story that sears, discomfits, disturbs our complacency and, yes, sometimes amuses. We meet characters with psyches laid bare, stripped of any subterfuge or protective devices. Susanna Moore is s a noted writer ( One Last Look, In The Cut, Sleeping Beauties ) with a penchant for the psychological and she explores, better said, skillfully dissects minds. Her setting is New York's Sloatsburg Correctional Institute and her narrative is related in four voices. Dr. Louise Forrest has been the Chief Psychiatrist at Sloatsburg for some six months. At times, that feels more like a sentence to her than simply a period of time. She cannot adjust to the below standard conditions at the Institute nor to the incompetence of her fellow staff members, which is only compounded by their callousness. She's far too qualified for this position, leaving one to wonder what life experiences brought her there. A divorced mother, her one solace in life is a young son, Ransom. For reasons the reader takes to be compassion Louise is drawn to Helen, a prisoner and her patient. Helen is seriously afflicted she murdered her own children and hears voices. Further, her younger sister was given up for adoption yet Helen believes she has found her in the person of Angie Mills, a move star wannabe. One cannot help but feel pity for Helen as the details of her abusive childhood and adulthood are revealed. Especially poignant are her attempts to connect with Angie via mail. Angie, the third member of the narrative quartet, has her own agenda and it's all about promoting Angie any way she can. She's also involved with Louise's ex husband, Rafael. A fourth voice belongs to Ike Bradshaw, a former narcotics detective who is now a guard at Sloatsburg. He is attracted to Louise who reciprocates his feelings. How the lives of these four intersect, for good or ill, is the crux of the story. Susanna Moore has written a bold, powerful, sometimes violent novel not soon forgotten. - Gail Cooke

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Fascinating

    Six months of serving time at Sloatsburg Correctional Institution in upstate New York chief psychiatrist Dr. Louise Forrest still has not adjusted to the harsh conditions. The federal women¿s prison is as bleak a place as one can imagine with it being understaffed, which in turn means dangerous. Inmates like suicidal children¿s killer Helen Nash and corrections officer Captain Henry 'Ike' Bradshaw wonder why Louise stay at this foreboding dump when she can go anywhere.-------------------- Unbeknownst to those two and others, Louise has come here to hide from her own psychological baggage her solo joy in her grim lonely life is her son Ransom. However, Louise finds fascination in the case of Helen, who swears she was protecting her offspring from the voices of the ¿Messengers¿ that drive her actions. Helen believes that actress Angie Mills, the current girlfriend of Rafael, Louise¿s ex-husband, is her sister. Helen begins writing letters to Angie, Ike and Louise fall into to bed together only to be caught by Ransom, who tells his father the guard molested him. The six person pile-up has begun.-------------------- This character driven tale from the opening description of the prison setting grips the audience with a foreboding that disaster is imminent readers never let go of that dark gloomy feeling even after the tale is finished. The male characters seem more caricature than full blooded while the three prime females appear genuine with each having major issues including the actress who needs to believe that Helen is a sibling. Condemning the way America warehouses the mentally impaired especially the criminal subgroup, readers will appreciate this well written ominous drama.-------------- Harriet Klausner

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