In a bid for perfection, this epic novel takes its time with not just the story, but the language as well. This is not a book to pick up when you have a few hours on a plane; it is one to dip in and out of, coming back to it when you can't get Racinda or Ruth off your mind. While there is no perfection in the Hart's world, there is an honest beauty that keeps the reader coming back. This character-driven novel explores the role women play in not just supporting one another, but destroying each other as well. Ruth's violence in Girly is a necessary part of the characters it touches, and as with many good "coming of age" stories, it is a catalyst for growth.
Girly is primarily the story of Racinda Hart, but the book is told by seven voices, all strong and lyrical. In each section, her story is told from the perspective of a different character.
One of the strongest sections is narrated by Max the son of one of Amandine's churchy friends. He and Racinda both survived an insane night with Ruth, and they share a terrible bond that they can't bring themselves to discuss.
It's hard not to ache for these children who are raising themselves and their feckless parents. Racinda and those in her orbit careen around their space, grasping for sense and any kind of peace. And while Merrick delivers devastatingly sharp and evocative lines - "The Subaru salesman smoked cigarettes and talked pussy" - she spins a tale around the Harts that shows their faults, while swaddling them in her honest, jdugeless prose.
Time Out Chicago, Issue: December 1-8, 2005
Strength is central to the novel. And Merrick has crafted intriguing characters whose ability to persevere is compelling even when they aren't necessarily doing nice things. The story is told through seven narrators, each with a distinct voice. But the most incisive writing belongs to Racinda's lengthy narrative. Her perspective is raw and painful in its neediness.
Girly is Merrick's first novel and it's no light fare. It's a novel of substance. It stays with you. And it bodes great things for readers who like a little meat on their literary bones.
Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
Set in a suburban Sacramento version of Joyce Carol Oates's wintry upstate New York, Merrick's debut novel is harsh and complex. Racinda Hart's lifestory is told by seven separate narrative voices. Her absentminded, Jesus-freak mother, Amandine, and her violent, older sister, Ruth, darkened Racinda's childhood years and laid the rickety foundation for the bewildered, hard-drinking and hard-drugging life to follow. The only sympathetic adult in her family-her grandmother Button-lies comatose in a hospital. Left hopeless and empty after a bad acid trip, Racinda lies about her age and has herself committed to a mental institution, simply hoping to slow the world down and stop the pain for a while. Unlike the chipper cheerleaders and sanitized outsiders of much high school fiction, Racinda is a raw version of American adolescence; she is desperate, nihilistic, and bound by the misery that accompanies being a teenage girl. In occasionally jerky though energetic prose, Merrick, editor of the forthcoming Random House anthology This Is Not Chick Lit, has crafted a moody, gothic debut, which makes for a brutal, and cathartic, emotional experience. It's a nice start for Merrick and Brooklyn-based Demimonde alike. (Dec.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal - Library Journal
With her first novel, Merrick (founder and director, Grace Reading Series), editor of the forthcoming Random House anthology This Is Not Chick Lit, presents the story of three generations of women whom life has damaged but not necessarily destroyed. The novel is told from multiple viewpoints but focuses primarily on Racinda Hart, whose older sister, Ruth, has always been dangerously out of control. Their mother, Amandine, has overcome her own horrific childhood by taking comfort in evangelical Christianity and speaking in tongues whenever the world overwhelms her. Finally, there is the girls' grandmother Button, whose earthy wisdom was the backbone of the family until she had a massive stroke. As the Harts move from rural Pennsylvania to Sacramento, CA, the girls become involved in a nightmarish world of sex, drugs, and violence and spend time in institutions; ultimately, however, Racinda finds her center. With its shifting perspectives, stream-of-consciousness style, unflinching language, and leaps into the dreams and drug-induced nightmares of its protagonists, Girly's narrative style may be off-putting to readers of popular fiction. Recommended only for collections of experimental and postfeminist fiction.-Andrea Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Merrick's tedious, benumbing and overlong first novel delineates the trashy travails of a pair of wayward siblings battling their born-again mom. Older sister Ruth acts out for the first time as a young teen in rural Pennsylvania by using a garden trowel to smash the teeth of a boy she's obsessively jealous of, then turning the weapon on her own mouth. From then on Ruth's self-destructive antics only get more outrageous as she descends into drug and alcohol abuse, unbridled sex and runaway dramatics. Her family observes in helpless anguish. Unstable, self-absorbed mother Amandine, a secretary at an evangelical Christian church, is long on suffering, short on nurturing. Father Lyman soon flees the coop. Younger sister Racinda, who watches Ruth for clues to her own behavior, refers to her sister as The Devil; Ruth returns the favor by calling her Creature. Grandmother Button, who mostly took care of Ruth when she was small, is now relegated to watching from the sidelines as Amandine fails to offer her children love and protection. When Ruth runs away, Amandine, who's moved to Sacramento, is sure she has gone off to join a cult; in fact, she is living precariously on the streets and supporting her drug habit with prostitution. Meanwhile, Racinda gets caught in a bad high-school scene involving drugs, and hanging out with a lonely neighbor boy, Max. Later, she becomes "starfucker" to a band, eventually working her way up to the lead, Joey, who unceremoniously dumps her. Each of the characters alternately tells his or her side of the story from the early 1970s onward. By the end, Ruth is in her early 20s and making a timid effort at rapprochement, while Amandine enjoys the romantic attentionof a scary cult deprogrammer. Yet the story offers little redemption; the emotional chasm is simply too wide. A tranquilizing catalogue of depressing teenaged antics.