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Friday, June 1, 2007

The Big Girls by Susanna Moore

Fans of Susanna Moore’s earlier novels: In the Cut and My Old Sweetheart, will not find the deeply psychological subject matter of her latest book, The Big Girls, daunting. Others, however, may initially find the narrative’s primary setting, a women’s correctional institution, a bit of a turn off. I think most people who enjoy reading fiction like to sit down and find themselves transported to another time or place. I enjoy discovering other worlds and experiencing life vicariously through fictional characters, but at first I was reluctant to kick back after a long day at work only to find myself in the dog-eat-dog world Moore portrays in The Big Girls. All to say, it took a book review by Stacey D’erasmo in the New York Times a few weeks ago, to convince me to sit down and read the book. In the novel Moore intertwines the voices and experiences of four very different protagonists who are loosely related to one another through the prison. Through the eyes of the prison’s psychiatrist, an inmate, a prison guard and a Hollywood starlet Moore portrays the deep-rooted tensions that exist between humans and the power we have over each other. In the end, I thought the book was very readable. I also found the alternating voices of the unique characters a fresh change since a single protagonist’s voice can sometimes become monotonous. I could attempt to continue stumbling through a description of Moore’s narrative style but D’erasmo put it best in her review for the Times when she said, “Still, as riveting as the body count can be, it can overshadow Moore’s subtler, more quietly lacerating talents. She has a pitch-perfect ear for the vernacular, [and] for moving character detail,” (7-8). All in all, The Big Girls is an intriguing read and one not to be missed by readers who like to contemplate the blurry lines between sanity and lack thereof, right and wrong, and the ease with which a good person can become evil. Here is a related review. - Caroline Morrison