Any book that opens with teen girls burying their dead parents in the garden is going to be a page turner. Marnie (whose fifteenth birthday is the day of the secret interment) suspects her 12-year-old sister, Nelly of suffocating their father, Gene. Nelly suspects that Marnie is the culprit. Neither of them are overly concerned since all they want to do is stay together. Hence the hiding of the dead bodies. (Mom's death was something else entirely.) Gene and Izzy were NOT model parents.
Lenny, the aging neighbor watches the girls from his window, missing his dead partner, Joseph, and wondering where the parents have gone.
The girls struggle through school, and with friends and boys (Marnie) and social ineptitude (Nelly), until a crisis forces them to seek refuge with Lenny. They find a safe place there. But nothing lasts forever.
Sex, drugs, violence - this book may be about teens but it is written for adults or New Adults as 20-somethings are now called in the publishing world. Marnie and Nelly are both very smart. As they alternate telling the story, with some help from Lenny, they uncover what a truly neglected life they have led. All the reader really wants is for them to have a home with Lenny - he's so lonely and he can really cook! - and get on with their lives. But murder is not a victimless crime. Someone always has to pay.
I can't get this book out of my head. Some of the observations attributed to Marnie and Nelly are so apt, so well-put, that I want to memorize them. Or post them on a sampler on my wall.
When Marnie catches her bible-thumping grandfather swigging whiskey from a bottle she reacts this way:
"I go back to my room afraid, because people like Robert T. Macdonald carrying righteousness like a handbag are dangerous and I never considered him dangerous before and now that I do I am scared."
"People...carrying righteousness like a handbag are dangerous." We see them every single day.
Click for Lisa O'Donnell's NPR interview here.