Other elements: friendship, secrets, women, duty, family, secrets Chanel No. 5.
Read it: If you like novels that peek into the lives of everyday people.
Overall rating: 7.75/10
This is a book about women – the struggles that are unique to mother, daughter, wife; the hidden power dynamics of a female community; the sublimated desire and repressed aspirations of a biddable domestic life. It’s also about an inner spirit that can’t be crushed, and the ways the heart acts out when it’s been bruised one too many times.
The Longings of Wayward Girls flashes between the past and present of one woman, Sadie. The reader sees the twin formative moments of Sadie as a young teenager, on the cusp of embracing her own sexuality, and Sadie as a mother recovering from the tragedy of a stillbirth. In both timelines, Sadie’s path is shaped by the women around her: her mother, her friends, her daughter. That’s not to say that men don’t have a profound effect on the plot – they do – but in this world, men are clearly an Other. A valued Other, but still; an outside force.
I don’t mean to suggest that The Longings of Wayward Girls is a sugary, kitchen-gossiping fest of sisterhood. It’s much deeper and grittier than that. The beauty of this book is that it touches on what is strong and primal and good in the unlovliness of everyday struggles.
My one issue with this book is that young Sadie was a bit of a bully, Mean Girl style, and I identified much more with the target of her aggression than the young aspiring Queen Bee herself. I was concerned that my alignment with the protagonist’s scapegoat meant that I would feel alienated from the rest of the story, but it just ended up informing my view of the characters over the passing of time. No one in this book is perfect: they all have secrets, which are slowly but never completely revealed. It’s a slow and delicious look at the lives of a small town over time.
Overall, The Longings of Wayward Girls is a powerful, elegantly written novel that I would recommend to anyone who likes a book that peers into the dusty corners of everyday life.
My thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing me with a copy of this book for review.