Book Review: Girlish

Girlish, Lara Lillibridge’s memoir creatively written in third person, draws you in like an adolescent girl cupping her hand and whispering into your ear. Her childhood was divided. On one hand scraping by with her brother between school bullies, outgrown clothes, a quotidian life, and parental mixed messages in an upstate New York home with her feminist lesbian mother and stepmother—whose undiagnosed bipolar illness creates an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty.

On the other hand, “Girl”—as she refers to herself—and her brother spend summers of nearly total freedom in the wilderness of Alaska with an emotionally disconnected and often physically absent father whose wives—named but referred to as numbers—come and go as if through a revolving door.

Lillibridge reveals thoughts, judgements, and needs from her youth as events unfold, while also turning to the audience to share a specific action she takes as an adult based on an experience from her youth, or an understanding of a behavior she can forgive now that she couldn’t then. It’s powerful.

The story compels you to keep reading, even as you sense an impending disaster. Yes, you get a flavor of lesbians in the time of sexual revolution—burning bras, feminism, sexual freedom, protests—but not from the perspective of the feminist warrior taking part in the revolution, instead from a needy kid simply seeking the embrace and comfort of her mom. Ultimately, she recognizes that her moms’ lesbianism is only one of many types of issues that can be found in any other family.

If you are a parent, you might recognize this book as an acknowledgement of motherhood—which Girl can’t know fully until she plays the role of mother herself—how kids seek the love of their parents, and how parents are just trying to do their best.

Nothing is predictable on this roller-coaster of a read. Lillibridge bravely opens up to reveal her heartbreakingly devastating and beautiful raw life experience, and we are the better for it.

This book was released on April 3, 2018. I encourage you to buy it hot off the press! Read more about Lara here and check out The Debutante Ball, a website shared by five debut authors (of which Lara is one).

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