Girls: A Novel

by Frederick Busch

Hardcover, 1997




Harmony (1997), Edition: 1st, 279 pages


In the unrelenting cold and bitter winter of Upstate New York, Jack and his wife, Fanny, are trying to come to terms with the desperate sorrow they feel over the death of their young daughter. A chasm has formed in their relationship and Jack is looking for a way to heal them both. Meanwhile, near the town where they live, a fourteen-year-old girl has gone missing between her parents' home and her father's church. She has become one of the hundreds of children who seemingly disappear into thin air every year in this country. Finding what has become of this child could be Jack's salvation, if he can just get to her in time.

User reviews

LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
I picked up Frederick Busch's book hoping for a reasonably well done crime novel and got so much more than that. It was wonderfully written; Busch has the astonishing knack of making his words both eloquent and spare. His characters became people I knew, complex and interesting and the setting, a private university in upstate New York during a harsh winter, was so clearly drawn as to make me pull on gloves. Busch writes a little like Castle Freeman, Jr., which suits perfectly the setting of the book, but also with an understated descriptiveness that reminded me a little of Hemingway.

And, for all that, this is an unpretentious book about how a girl gone missing from a small farming community impacts the life of a man with the sorrow of his own daughter's death. Jack works as a university security guard, protecting the pampered children of well-to-do families as they do their best to misbehave. His wife and he are not doing so well; although they both wish their relationship was better, improving it seems to be impossible. Jack isn't a talkative man and his closest relationship is with his dog. When an acquaintance asks him to look into the girl's disappearance, he is reluctant to get involved. The state police know what they are doing and his investigating days never amounted to more than getting drunk servicemen to admit to their acts of violence. He slowly becomes obsessed with the missing girl, as she becomes mixed in his mind with his own daughter.

As much a psychological study of people handling more than they're equipped for, the plot nonetheless is well put together, creating a book that is both an entertainment and worth thinking about afterward.
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LibraryThing member delphica
(#27 in the 2003 Book Challenge)

It's a suspense story, but the writing style is really very unusual. One of the things I liked about it is that the reader is never exactly sure how she feels about the various characters, they all seem to have good and bad sides. Our narrator is a security guard at an upstate New York college, and has recently lost a daughter -- the title refers to the various young girls that intersect his life, and his drive to protect these girls from harm. I got into an interesting conversation with a bartender while I was reading this book, about the fact that the title "Girls" seems like it should be salacious. I think the author plays with this idea, too.

Grade: B+/A-
Recommended: to people who like suspense, but are also interested in the psychology of the various characters in the story. This is almost more like an atmosphere piece than an actual mystery.
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LibraryThing member carmarie
This book was hard to follow for me. Because of the writing style, I found myself re-reading sentences and paragraphs just to get the tone right and really understand what he was talking about. I think the main character was supposed to be sarcastically witty, but it didn't get pulled off...and the wife, although going through a tragic pain..annoyed me.… (more)
LibraryThing member castironskillet
There is a line in this book that says about the main character, Jack, that he's the kind of guy that makes you want to take care of him. Busch has created a character that seems so real that I did want to take care of him. The book follows Jack through a few months of a long, hard winter in upstate New York as he and his wife of many years try to cope with the death of their baby. Jack gets pulled into an investigation of a missing girl which opens up all kinds of feelings for him that he is unable to express. The setting and characters of this book are powerful.… (more)
LibraryThing member kylenapoli
What an unexpected delight.
LibraryThing member bastet
Girls are missing from this college town and a lowly maintenance worker is brought into the fray. Brilliant writing.


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