The Girls from Corona del Mar

Rufi Thorpe

The Girls from Corona del Mar
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The Girls from Corona del Mar

Rufi Thorpe

This is longlisted for the 2014 Dylan Thomas Prize. It is a fiercely beautiful novel about friendship and the ties that bind us.

Mia and Lorrie Ann are lifelong friends: hard-hearted Mia and untouchably beautiful, kind Lorrie Ann. While Mia struggles with a mother who drinks, a pregnancy at fifteen, and younger brothers she loves but can’t quite be good to, Lorrie Ann is luminous, surrounded by her close-knit family, immune to the mistakes that mar her best friend’s life. Until a sudden loss catapults Lorrie Ann into tragedy: things fall apart, and then fall apart further - and there is nothing Mia can do to help. And as good, kind, brave Lorrie Ann stops being so good, Mia begins to question just who this woman is and what that question means about them both.

A staggeringly arresting, honest novel of love, motherhood, loyalty, and the myth of the perfect friendship that moves us to ask ourselves just how well we know those we love, what we owe our children, and who we are without our friends.

Review

Mia and Lorrie Ann live in the Californian town of Corona Del Mar. It is the 1990s, and the two girls, best friends, are 15 years old. Mia’s life is tough – her family is difficult and she’s dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. The way Mia sees it, she’s the ‘bad’ one, and Lorrie Ann is the ‘good’ one: ‘In a way, Lorrie Ann made me everything I am, for my personality took shape as an equal and opposite reaction to who she was, just as, I am sure, her personality formed as a result of mine.’

The novel follows Mia and Lorrie Ann out of teenage-hood, through their twenties and into their thirties. Mia narrates the story throughout but Lorrie Ann’s tumultuous life is always the central focus. Post high school, things get better for Mia but Lorrie Ann faces a series of tragic events that push her life in a very different direction. Despite their diverging paths, neither can quite give the other up and their friendship endures. This is a novel that digs deep into the dark corners of a friendship, capturing the complicated ebb and flow that comes from time, distance and changing life circumstances: the story of Lorrie Ann’s life is shaped for the reader by Mia’s changing perception and judgement of her friend.

A raw, gritty and at times uncomfortable read, The Girls from Corona Del Mar is also a highly recommended one. This is a very fine debut, one that is perfect for book clubs or those who enjoyed Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan trilogy. It touches on a broad spectrum of issues, from disability to motherhood to addiction. At its heart, it is a deeply satisfying, engrossing character study of two women who are never quite sure how well they really know one another.


Nina Kenwood is the Digital Marketing Manager for Readings.

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