Girls of a Certain Age

Girls of a Certain Age

by Maria Adelmann


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Available for Pre-Order. This item will be available on February 16, 2021


A fearless, darkly playful debut exploring the many impossible choices that accompany 21st century femaleness.

What is the right way to handle an abusive partner? An unexpected pregnancy? A toxic friendship? Chronic unemployment? Gender dysphoria? A family member going to war? A disability? Anger? Loneliness?

Finding themselves in disempowering, frightening, or otherwise unendurable circumstances, the girls, women, and non-binary characters in Maria Adelmann's stories look for ways to free themselves into new lives or, at the very least, new states of feeling. Sometimes they do this by hurting someone else or getting hurt; sometimes by submitting, other times by mounting a rebellion. With a special talent for pressing the sharp up against the tender, Adelmann explores the many pathways through the titular condition.

Ranging in style from the magical to the terrifying to the calm tones of a self-help manual, Girls of a Certain Age captures the spectrum of strategies we apply to the pain of life, strategies that we persist in pretending might actually work.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Maria Adelmann renders the experience of young womanhood so viscerally that I felt I was perched somewhere within her narrators’ brains as I read. The subject matter is often dark, and Adelmann grapples with that darkness fully and beautifully, yet these stories are also bursting with wit and whimsy. Adelmann can tease out both the anguish and perverse humor of a situation in a single dazzling sentence. This collection feels like its own singular world, and I loved being inside of it.”
 —Alexis Schaitkin, author of SAINT X

"Adelmann doesn't create rules for the women in her stories, no matter their age. She lets them run rampant, their messiness on full display. Harsh and tender, Adelmann's collection is both an unblinking testament to modern womanhood and a fearless debut."
 —Jean Kyoung Frazier, author of PIZZA GIRL

“Bewilderment runs like a ribbon through these stories, locating the surreal in the mundane and tethering fantastical elements to earthly pain. Page after page, I wondered what unexpected truth Adelmann would reveal next. As I watched her characters struggle for answers, I found myself newly uncertain of the certainties I hold most dear. By the end, I felt like the protagonist in one of her stories—hanging upside down in a tree, shaken out, and rearranged.”
 —Lulu Miller, author of WHY FISH DON'T EXIST and co-host of Radiolab

“What heart! What power! What wit! The young women in these funny, subversive, poignant stories are shaped by their contradictions and their desires, their fears and their surroundings, and their longing to break away. Through narratives as heartfelt as they are surprising, they search for connection, for a voice, and for purpose in the often-confounding world they move through, in bodies and situations that both betray and astound them. Maria Adelmann is a true storyteller.”
 —Natalie Bakopoulos, author of SCORPIONFISH

"Adelmann’s stories feel like intimate secrets whispered in the ear, populated by characters who are occasionally hard to watch but impossible to turn away from. At turns dark, witty, and strange, Girls of a Certain Age is a startling debut from a writer of astonishing talent and vision." 

Jung Yun, author of SHELTER

“The stories linger, clearly illuminated by their artistry, honesty, and pervasive courage. A strong debut from a writer who probes the inner lives of her female subjects with both purpose and humor.”

“A dark and tender debut… deep and often terrifying aspects of womens' lives are beautifully portrayed in this collection of stories as Adelmann’s characters grapple with making sense of their world.”—BOOKLIST

Kirkus Reviews

Young women eye their futures with the practiced skepticism of people who have already seen far too much.

The stories in Adelmann’s debut collection feature women and girls adrift in the world. From broken homes, broken relationships, broken senses of their own identities, the narrators of these stories explore worlds marked by a bleak sense of anonymity—in these largely urban tales, all faces seem to be faces in the crowd. Many of the stories capture their narrators' inner monologues in a way that is both believable and illuminating. In “Pets Are for Rich Kids,” Ashley’s friendship with the gratingly precocious Willa is marked by the inequalities of their social situations. Willa is the pampered daughter of wealthy parents who buy her pets to teach her lessons about responsibility and, inevitably, power while Ashley is the child of a struggling newly single mother who can't understand why no one else sees “how dumb it [is] that the things you [are] supposed to love are always running away or dying.” Willa tries to teach Ashley not to be so “callous” by giving her the unasked-for responsibility of a guinea pig, and the resulting conflict between the girls focuses on the dynamics of real rage and performative kindness. Similarly, “Middlemen,” another standout piece, explores the narrator’s relationship with her roommate, Grace, the pampered daughter of emotionally abusive parents, who instigates a sexual aspect to their friendship—but only when someone else is looking. Many of the narrators are in the middle of what seem likely to be their lives’ defining crises. There is a young wife who has run over her abusive husband’s dog (“The Replacements”); a young wife whose husband is leaving to go to war (“How To Wait”); and a lonely 20-something, set adrift by trauma, looking for solace in too much alcohol and too many women (“Human Bonding”). The similarity among the subjects can sometimes overwhelm the experience of reading the individual pieces. But when read independently, the stories linger, clearly illuminated by their artistry, honesty, and pervasive courage.

A strong debut from a writer who probes the inner lives of her female subjects with both purpose and humor.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316450812
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 02/16/2021
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 854,006
Product dimensions: 5.75(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.87(d)

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