The Year of Needy Girls

The Year of Needy Girls

by Patricia A. Smith
The Year of Needy Girls

The Year of Needy Girls

by Patricia A. Smith


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A young boy's murder unleashes chaos in the life of a school teacher and a small New England town.

“A tense story about a small town swept up in bigotry and paranoia after the brutal murder of a local boy sends the residents into a frenzied witch hunt . . . Smith’s crisp prose and dedication to realistic moral ambiguity make for a provoking read.” —Publishers Weekly

Bradley, Massachusetts is in many ways a typical small New England town, but a river divides it in half—on one side, the East End: crowded triple-deckers, the Most Precious Blood parish, and a Brazilian immigrant community; and on the other, the West End: renovated Victorians, Brandywine Academy, and families with last names as venerable as the Mayflower.

Deirdre Murphy and her partner Sara Jane (SJ) Edmonds have just moved to their first house—and for the first time are open in their relationship—in the West End, where Deirdre teaches at Brandywine Academy. A dedicated teacher from a working-class background, she is well loved by her students. But the murder of ten-year-old Leo Rivera from the East End changes everything—for Deirdre and SJ, for the girls at Brandywine, and for all of Bradley. And when Deirdre is falsely accused of sexually molesting one of her students, the entire town erupts.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781617754876
Publisher: Akashic Books, Ltd.
Publication date: 01/03/2017
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 1,035,666
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Patricia A. Smith's nonfiction has appeared in several anthologies including One Teacher in Ten: Gay and Lesbian Educators Tell Their Stories and One Teacher in Ten in the New Millennium: LGBT Educators Speak Out About What's Gotten Better . . . and What Hasn't. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such places as Salon, Broad Street, Prime Number, and Gris-Gris. The Year of Needy Girls is her first novel. A native New Englander, Smith now lives in Chester, Virginia, with her partner.

Read an Excerpt

The Year of Needy Girls

By Patricia A. Smith

Akashic Books

Copyright © 2017 Patricia A. Smith
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61775-487-6



The air, electric, buzzes and hums. It's the end of August. One of those humid, still Saturdays, the city empty, or holding its breath.

East of the river, near the abandoned textile mill and the old shoe warehouse, Leo Rivera rides his bicycle, a ten-speed hand-me-down from his brothers. He pays no mind to the heat. Leo stands and pumps past a vacant lot, one of several in his neighborhood, littered with broken glass that sparkles in the sun. Tufts of stiff, burnt grass poke though cracks in the concrete, and red plastic milk crates sit overturned and empty in the lot, waiting for the men who will gather there later to drink beer and listen to the game. Through the opened window of a shingled brown triple-decker, he hears Portuguese, the same radio station his mother listens to, the same one that will broadcast the soccer match this afternoon, Brazil versus Chile.

Leo likes soccer but unlike his brothers, he prefers baseball. Best of all, he likes riding his bike. He pedals hard past the chain-link fence of his school, Most Precious Blood Elementary — MPB they all call it — and the hot tarred blacktop where he will be having recess again in a few short days. He whizzes past Most Precious Blood Church and the white sign that advertises Wednesday-night Bingo in the parish hall next door. His grandmother is a regular. She wins, but not big, not enough to buy him a new bike, which he wants more than anything, which he covets. He doesn't covet anyone else's bike, just a Trek he has seen advertised in a magazine, but he knows that wanting things and praying for them is bad. Greed, the MPB Sisters say, is a sin. Not a mortal one, like killing, but a venial one, a misdemeanor. Leo tries to avoid wanting the bike outright because he doesn't like to disappoint the Sisters at MPB, but worst of all, he doesn't like disappointing his mother.

His mother tells him that he is her pride and joy. The One Born in America. Does he know how lucky he is to be living in a country where his father can get decent work and he and his brothers can go to good schools? He must thank God for America, his mother tells him. Every night. He must pray and thank God for sending them all to this good country.

The American boy doesn't know any other country. He hears the stories and he thinks he is the luckiest of all not to know anything but America, this city, this neighborhood where he goes to school and plays baseball, this land of shiny bicycles. At night, when he is saying his prayers, always thanking God for America, Leo slips and tries to make deals about how he will help his mother and how he will do all his homework if he can only get that Trek for his birthday. His birthday isn't for weeks, but he is thinking about it now, riding past the library, past the empty Little League field with the backstop halfway torn down, past the mechanic shop where Mickey, his next-door neighbor, works part-time. Mickey is almost a friend. He's much older, but he helps Leo with his bike, lubes the chain for him or replaces it outright like he did at the beginning of summer. Leo is thinking of his birthday and how much he would like that Trek to ride to school and show his friends. He won't even mind the helmet his mother makes him wear. He won't complain ever about the helmet, he promises God.

So when Leo coasts down the sidewalk toward his grandmother's house, a white triple-decker surrounded by a chain-link fence, and Mickey is waiting, sitting in the passenger seat of a car alongside the curb, engine still running, Leo is only thinking of his Trek, seeing himself on the first day of school, riding to MPB on the shiny bike. He isn't thinking how strange it is that Mickey is here waiting for him. No, he is thinking only of his birthday and the way it will be when his mother leads him to the dining room.

Mickey calls, "Leo!" out the car window and tells him to hop in. In the driver's seat, a man Leo doesn't recognize flicks his cigarette butt onto the sidewalk, where it lands next to Leo's sneaker. Mickey says he's found the bike. He will buy it if it's the one Leo wants. Mickey can't remember if it's a Trek or not — he thinks it is. It'll just take a second — he's seen the bike in a shop downtown and it isn't too expensive. If they go right now, if Leo will just get in the car and ... it'll just take a minute, his grandmother won't even know he's gone — she doesn't even know he's here yet — then Mickey'll know whether or not it's the bike to buy for Leo's birthday. They'll bring him right back, they promise.

So his grandmother won't worry, they put his Schwinn in the trunk. "If she sees the bike lying in the yard, we don't want her wondering where you are, do we?" Mickey says.

Leo agrees and climbs in the backseat.

Mickey's friend, the driver, smiles in the rearview mirror. "You like bikes, huh?"

This is too good to be true. This is maybe some crazy dream.


Excerpted from The Year of Needy Girls by Patricia A. Smith. Copyright © 2017 Patricia A. Smith. Excerpted by permission of Akashic Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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