SIL­VER GIRL

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight Women’s Voices -

Les­lie Pi­etrzyk, The Un­named Press (FE­BRU­ARY) Soft­cover $17 (272pp), 978-1-944700-51-5

Les­lie Pi­etrzyk’s haunt­ing Sil­ver Girl be­gins in 1980, with a name­less nar­ra­tor start­ing her fresh­man year at a pres­ti­gious Chicago-area uni­ver­sity. The nar­ra­tor es­caped her eco­nom­i­cally de­pressed Iowa home­town, but the emo­tional bag­gage of a grim child­hood and dys­func­tional fam­ily con­tinue to weigh her down like the bulky, cheaply made trunk that holds her be­long­ings.

Sil­ver Girl’s hero­ine, though name­less, is com­pellingly flawed. Forced into a poverty mind­set, with con­stant anx­i­eties about pay­ing for food and rent, her sit­u­a­tion is made even more dif­fi­cult by the wealth of her fel­low stu­dents. She feels shad­owy and mousy, and like she must be morally shad­owy as well in or­der to at­tract men. Her close friend Jess ex­udes con­fi­dence and has her pick of boyfriends, along with the heed­less­ness that tends to come from be­ing born into a rich fam­ily.

Shift­ing from fresh­man year forward to 1982 and then back again, Sil­ver Girl cen­ters around the un­usual friend­ship be­tween the nar­ra­tor and Jess, as well as the no­to­ri­ous Chicago Tylenol mur­ders—jess’s fa­ther’s mis­tress dies af­ter in­gest­ing a tam­pered cap­sule. The cou­ple’s long­time af­fair is ex­posed, along with the ex­is­tence of their il­le­git­i­mate daugh­ter.

The novel’s lay­ered com­plex­ity dis­tin­guishes its anony­mous pro­tag­o­nist and of­fers rea­sons be­hind her oc­ca­sional ly­ing or petty thiev­ery. There are dark mem­o­ries from the re­cent past, and nag­ging con­cerns about her younger sis­ter, Grace, still back in Iowa and vul­ner­a­ble to the same toxic en­vi­ron­ment. Sex­u­ally ma­nip­u­lated by Jess’s ar­ro­gant fi­ancé, she is also treated with care­less con­cern by Jess and her par­ents, and ul­ti­mately learns to use them as they use her.

Though the jour­ney isn’t easy, Sil­ver Girl con­cludes with a surge of hope, like the spring thaw af­ter an ice­bound Chicago win­ter. The trou­bled nar­ra­tor ul­ti­mately finds a new sense of pur­pose and self-worth.

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