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Beautiful Girls

Beautiful Girls

4.0 7
by Beth Ann Bauman

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Beautiful Girls is a dazzling debut collection about the secret lives of girls and women. The characters who inhabit Beth Ann Bauman’s stories are the timid, the not-quite-fabulous, the public school Ophelias, who yearn for something grander than their current lot. Told with irresistible humor and remarkable grace, these stories illuminate the search for love,


Beautiful Girls is a dazzling debut collection about the secret lives of girls and women. The characters who inhabit Beth Ann Bauman’s stories are the timid, the not-quite-fabulous, the public school Ophelias, who yearn for something grander than their current lot. Told with irresistible humor and remarkable grace, these stories illuminate the search for love, friendship, connection, and identity.

In "True," an exquisitely shy teenage girl tries to fathom the hidden secrets of beauty from a boy who’s "the prettiest person in the entire school." A lonely divorcée in "Safeway," wanders the darkened aisles of a grocery store during a power outage, and becomes "certain a touch of rot had taken root in her heart...and that she still might live better." In "Wash, Rinse, Spin," a hapless young woman loses her laundry and must resort to the decrepit wardrobe she wore while working in B movies, as her dying father fades in her hometown. And in the title story, voracious girls who long for love and admiration compete in a town pageant.

From the fierce bonds among sisters, to the discoveries of a girl who roams her neighborhood in the wee hours of the morning, to the allure of a tropical paradise where anything feels possible, Beautiful Girls explores what it means to be a woman in the modern world, looking for a place to call home.

At once magical, tender, and wise, this book establishes Beth Ann Bauman as a bold new literary voice.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Set largely in the vast grayness of suburbia, Beth Ann Bauman's first collection of stories focuses on middle-class girls and women struggling with loneliness, resentment, sexual frustration and grief. — Dan Kaufman
Publishers Weekly
Robin is pretty; Dani is lovely; Eve has frizzy hair. Beautiful or not, the protagonists of this debut collection's eight smart, irreverent stories are all sharp and honest enough to recognize their flaws and strengths. Few, however, are content to accept their shortcomings without testing alternate ways of looking or behaving. In "True," 15-year-old Robin has just turned pretty, but realizes that she has a "lousy personality." Determined not to be boring anymore, she decides to try being mean instead-isn't she allowed, now that she's beautiful? The title story centers around 17-year-old cheerleader Dani, who knows she is stunning, but comes to realize that she lacks the certain inner something that makes her best friend, Inggy, gorgeous. "Inggy was the most beautiful girl on the poster, although there was more to it than that." Bauman's wry voice, impish sense of humor and occasional surreal shadings make her portrayals of children particularly pleasing. Allie, the eight-year-old narrator of "The Middle of the Night," is the only child of alcoholic parents. She often finds her father passed out on the lawn and is the only one awake to answer her father's lover's late night calls. In "Stew," homely 14-year-old J.D. is mortified to be babysitting on a Friday night, but throws himself gamely into a game of dressup with the two girls in his charge. Astringent and frequently moving, these stories are seductive showcases for a strong new voice. (Mar. 5) Forecast: A New York Times profile of Bauman should spark early interest in the book; positive reviews will likely keep the ball rolling. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Eight debut tales that have emerged from a wacky modern world. Bauman's stories catch the frail wave of pop culture but ride it smoothly, not relying on its zaniness to bring interest to her characters. "The Middle of the Night" follows a precocious child as she struggles toward adulthood in a family disintegrating under the weight of alcoholism; the reader watches her indulge in midnight phone conversations with her father's estranged mistress. In "Wash, Rinse, Spin," a law school student is yanked from her modern life to attend to the chores involved in assisting in the care of her vibrant but degenerating father; the title story tags along behind an ultramodern high-school cheerleader who doesn't have enough fingers to count the men at the football game she's slept with as she navigates a world also populated with Jung and Henry James. A girl with a lousy personality in "True" encounters the prettiest boy alive ("Worse yet, he knew how to be pretty. He wore his prettiness like a smart jacket") and, once alone, the two discover the only thing in the world better than being nice. And a woman's breakdown in a New York City office in "Wildlife in America" leads her to migrate to New Jersey, where pop culture is sufficiently suffused, and a hold-up at a minimart just might bring true love. These pieces all have their foundation in solid storytelling but stray from it in just the same way that pop culture seems to have strayed away from aesthetic purity. Bauman is on a trek similar to Mary Robison's or Grace Paley's in her painting of a world where the representation of a thing has become as important as the thing itself: "Inggy was the most beautiful girl on the poster, although there wasmore to it than that. On that windy November day she was there in her photo, fully herself." Promising vision and a powerful start. Agent: Kristen Auclair/Janklow & Nesbit

Product Details

MacAdam/Cage Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.59(d)

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Beautiful Girls 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
How wonderful. This debut collection appears as if it were Bauman's tenth. The stories are quiet, spare and rhythmically pitched. She captures the language of the awkward, quirky teenager and the voice of small girls. I found the themes here to circle leaving more than meditations on women. Fantastic, well-written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ms. Bauman's characters struggle to sort out their inner lives, their self-awareness bobbing and sinking, while we the readers are free to discover things more fully through thematic landscapes, careful juxtapositions and her ostensibly quirky turns of dialogue and action that tempt us to believe that her work is just play. In one story, a clumsy attempt at love on an Indian Ocean cruise ends as refreshingly as an island breeze, but an aftertaste of the pain of yearning lingers well beyond the story's conclusion. In one deft line, we learn that this lover's predicament is an 'ancient story,' and with that her whole life is revealed. The first line of the story Beautiful Girls is, 'For days now something had reeked in the basement.' This startling contrast sets off a story that bounds back and forth between beauty and revulsion as the teenage protagonist, with creme de menthe and a quaalude sloshing in her stomach, tries to accept herself despite her most un-beautiful mother, her clever sisters and her perfect friend. My favorite story in the collection introduces a woman for whom an amazing relationship awaits if she can only resolve her inhibitions. In some absolutely marvelous writing, she works on her problem in the gentle anarchy and relative anonymity of a Safeway supermarket where shoppers are admitted during a power outage with the store dark and the frozen foods melting. I stumbled across a few moments that felt flat to me, and in one case I felt bothered by a loose end that I thought was carelessly disposed of...(don't ask where, I'll never tell)...Overall, this is a lovingly crafted, many layered collection of stories that moved me to, well, write a review!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The first short story go me hooked, and I can't put it down!!! I am almost finished with the book and cannot wait to read more by this fabulous author!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having read this book of short stories slowly, one every day or two, I kept thinking that the last one I read was the best. These stories have a dream-like quality. They feel like memories, even though they have a wide range of characters (even boys) and a variety of situations, many that I have never experienced before. There are breath-catching insights that poignantly recall the pain of growing up, of 20/20 hindsight, of walking childlike into the future, regardless of our age.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Vermala More than 1 year ago
As many of the stories were of the coming of age pains of teenage girls, some of the stories didn't resonate with this male reader, but some were so well written that they would likely appeal to anyone, but the story that will stay with me is Safeway...where the central character was gentle but fierce, a little angry & sad, but also very funny...A story that was a joy to read more than once.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The stories were dull, irrelevant, and uninspiring. The characters seemed plastic and whiney to me.