A Bad and Stupid Girl

Jean McGarry, Author University of Michigan Press $24 (230p) ISBN 978-0-472-11580-8
Two girls-one beautiful, one smart-are drawn together by their reciprocal need for what the other has. It's the 1970s, and Siri Sorenson, beautiful and rich, leaves the suburbs of fictional state ""New Federal"" for St. Mary's college, dropped off by the family she's grown to despise. Esther Ferry arrives with a scholarship and a set of cheap bedspreads, which her mother dutifully places on the two twin beds in the small dorm room. Thrown together among strict nuns and clueless girls, and lacking any real sophistication themselves, they become friends. Johns Hopkins professor of fiction McGarry (Airs of Providence) makes the tension left by the sexual revolution and the feminist movement as palpable as the brick buildings of the university. Siri longs for Esther's intelligence, and absorbs any stray ideas that come her way, while Esther becomes a recalcitrant student, refusing to ""read and spill."" Sex complicates matters considerably. The descriptions of the girls' developing intelligence can seem overwrought, but when McGarry moves out of her character's minds, beautiful and vivid scenes emerge, like this Christmas vacation exchange between Siri and her father: ""I'm not going to ask you why you bit your brother, Siri."" ""Good."" ""Because I know you don't know why."" This book is a winning reminder for nostalgic adults of just how horrible 18 could really be.
Reviewed on: 10/01/2006
Release date: 10/01/2006
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 237 pages - 978-0-472-02168-0
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