cover image Girl A

Girl A

Abigail Dean. Viking, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-0-593-29584-7

Alexandra “Lex” Gracie, the protagonist of Dean’s harrowing debut, grew up in an abusive home in Hollowfield, England, from which she escaped 15 years earlier and freed her older brother and four younger siblings. Her father committed suicide the day of her escape; her mother, Deborah, later went to prison; and she and her brothers and sisters were placed in foster homes. Now a 30-something lawyer in New York City, Lex returns to England after she learns Deborah has died of cancer. Deborah has made Lex the executor of her estate, which includes the Hollowfield house. Lex wants to turn the “house of horrors” into a community center, but she needs approval from each of her siblings to do so. Meanwhile, her identity as Girl A, as she was identified in the press at the time of her escape, resurfaces, forcing her to recollect the abuse and negligence they all endured from their parents. The frequent and ambiguous narrative shifts from past to present can be hard to follow, but the author skillfully brings the complicated relationships among the siblings as well as the secrets they share into dramatic relief. This assured psychological thriller marks Dean as a writer to watch. Agent: Jenny Bent, Bent Agency. (Feb.)