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Colony Girl: A Novel


In Arhat, Iowa, there are cornfields and there's the Colony. Smart and precocious fifteen-year-old Eve is feeling stymied by both. So she gets her first job as a highway work crew flagman, falls in love with a local teen Adonis and his widowed father, and plots to intervene in her best friend's arranged marriage. Bold but ambivalent, Eve finds herself trying to save the colony at the same time as she struggles to break free of its ominous control.

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In Arhat, Iowa, there are cornfields and there's the Colony. Smart and precocious fifteen-year-old Eve is feeling stymied by both. So she gets her first job as a highway work crew flagman, falls in love with a local teen Adonis and his widowed father, and plots to intervene in her best friend's arranged marriage. Bold but ambivalent, Eve finds herself trying to save the colony at the same time as she struggles to break free of its ominous control.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[A] winning, original and supremely intelligent novel." —Richard Eder, The New York Times

"Colony Girl is a teetering, scary, vibrant, and funny book, alternately spare as a cornfield and rich with gently surreal invention." —Jonathan Lethem, author of Girl In Landscape and Motherless Brooklyn

"His protagonist and narrator, Eve, is utterly original, indeed sui generis...Eve shows us just what a writer with a truthful imagination can achieve; she is the triumph a the heart of this marvelous new novel." —Los Angeles Times Book Review

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Though she attends a public high school, shows up at parties and lands a highway road-crew summer job, everyone knows 15-year-old Eve is a Colony girl--part of a Christian religious settlement surrounded by cornfields outside Arhat, Iowa. We meet her drunk and throwing up at a party--and falling in love with the host's father, who is trying to help her. In such circumstances, Eve usually reminds people she can't have a ride home--"no cars in the Bible." Life at the Colony follows strict rules, as set by autocratic, charismatic religious leader Gordon "no last names in the Bible", but recently Gordon has been in a bit of a slump. He drinks and watches old reruns, and is inspired only when his satellite dish picks up what he's sure is an original I Love Lucy signal, bouncing around in space. Gordon cuts Eve a lot of slack because her mother once was his lover, and Eve has become his spunky young soul mate. Eve takes advantage of her relative freedom, trying very hard to lose her virginity to her hunky boyfriend, Joey, or his father, whichever one she can seduce first. But when Gordon announces that he plans to take one of Eve's teenage friends as his bride, Eve sets off on a campaign to ruin him, aided by information she garners from a businessman who owns the local strip joint. Rayfiel Split Levels doesn't give readers a full dose of either satire or coming-of-age story, though there are elements of both here, subtly fused in a smart, funny, oddball story that has much truth and wit, and a deliciously lusty, smart teenage narrator. Though Eve's final escape seems a little abrupt, by the time she leaves, readers will be convinced that the ex-Colony girl has all it takes to survive in the real world. Sept. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Neither as entertaining nor as provocative as Rayfiel's first novel, Split-Levels, this work tells the story of a small Christian community in Iowa and of Eve, who wants to escape it. Only 15, Eve spends her time trying not to be a good girl. She works on a road crew, drinks with her buddies, and yearns for sex with both handsome Joey and his father--anything to grow up faster. Meanwhile, the community's founder and cultish leader, Gordon, has begun to act strangely. Utterly uncharismatic and seemingly powerless, he prefers watching reruns and cable to guiding his flock. Despite all of this, there is little tension in this limp novel. The characters are poorly rendered it is never clear why Eve is unhappy and rebellious or what she hopes to prove and the town's history confusing. Why did the colonists come here? Why do they stay? A marginal purchase.--Yvette Weller Olson, City Univ. Lib., Renton, WA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Rayfiel (Split-Levels, 1994) restores his talent for the religious/sexual baroque to a place it fits perfectly—an isolationist Iowan religious commune, in which a 15-year-old girl begins to see things for what they are. Eve, the Colony girl of the title, is a splendid, sharply written creation: romantic enough to hope, innocent enough to hurt, and wise enough to move on. The Colony, located in tiny Arhat, is "sixty-two of us," Eve says, "twelve families, refugees from a world that was out of control, trying to lead Christian lives." Eve's mother has a "past" with Gordon, the eccentric leader of the Colony, and charismatic Everclear slugger who perpetually wears shades. This mysterious balance is upset when Gordon announces his plans to marry Serena, Eve's best friend. While working a summer job on a road crew, Eve has a taste of the real world, and especially of Joey, a wounded, shy, teenaged dream with whom she intends to lose her virginity. While negotiating a peace between Joey and his father Herb, Eve finds herself adored by the father as well, and as this erotic contest is in play, she's determined to stop innocent Serena's marriage. She needs dirt on Gordon, and she gets it—somewhat improbably—by working in a business associate's strip-joint in exchange for information. The Colony is scandalized, and as the wedding ceremony begins, Eve confronts Gordon with her knowledge that he is, in fact, Jewish. She demands a no-fault release from the Colony; once free, she discovers Joey and Herb have left her behind for San Diego. Now fully on her own, she heads for New York City, "where the smart people live," she ironically adds. In a story strung tight with sexual andspiritual tension, Eve is a pleasure to watch on the page: credibly innocent, crafty and resilient, she rewards the term "plucky" with engaging meaning.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312267193
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 11/28/2000
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Rayfiel is the author of Split Levels. His neo-Edwardian novel Lutwidge Finch is appearing serially in zingmagazine. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Claire, a potter, and their two children.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2002

    Disappointment in Iowa

    As an author and an avid reader, I'm always looking for good literary fiction to help me learn my craft. I saw this title in the "bargain bin" at my local Barnes and Noble and was immediately attracted to the premise of the story. The tale begins credibly enough and there's no question that the author has skill. However, the ability to write a great sentence can be overcome by a suspension of belief in the plot and an author's inability to swing for the fence. Both failings are present in "Colony Girl". The result is that this book plods along with a neat twist of a word here and there but never really says or does anything compelling. Eve, the main character, a sheltered fifteen year old girl who lives in a cloistered religious community in rural Iowa, loses all her credibility with the reader by her actions, her pattern of speech, and her motivations. I wanted so much for this novel to work. It doesn't. Even as a bargain purchase, this book falls short of its promise. And that's too bad because it could have been a very, very satisfying story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2002

    spiced with humor, disturbing, couldn't put it down

    I think this was a great book. I don't know what it's doing on the bargain book shelves, should be on the best seller shelves. The characters are very real, very believeable, the plot is what's disturbing, and the events that happen. This is one of the most interesting books I've read in a while, and the author has a great writing style. Definately recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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