I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember and that means I read between 52-156 books a year depending on my level of busy-ness. First, I inhaled all the childhood favorites like the Little House, Black Stallion, and Trixie Belden series. Then I consumed the classics- my world view was forever shaped by Jane Eyre and 1984. In my early 20s my new obsession was the Catherine Cookson’s Mallen series and all the English royalty historical fiction. In my 30s and early 40s I loved the comfort, familiarity, and predictably of serial mysteries; I loved series with female protagonists as I felt like I was meeting an old friend with each book, I loved books set in places I had lived or traveled as I could walk familiar paths, I could relate to the homey mysteries as they made housekeeping and child care interesting- nothing like finding a dead body to bring spice into your life! But throughout all the periods I have liked general fiction and fantasies that gave me a window into new and different worlds- I loved being challenged with mind-opening ideas, being an armchair traveler, and having the opportunity to “walk in someone else’s shoes.”
As I approach 50, I have hit a reading rut- it feels like “What has been is what will be,and has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9 ). I still read as much as ever, but I find myself frustrated with the “same ol’ same ol.” Everything feels derivative, like there is nothing new or fresh:
“If there be nothing new, but that which is
Hath been before, how are our brains beguiled,
Which, labouring for invention, bear amiss
The second burden of a former child.” (Shakespeare’s Sonnet 59)
But then I started Talk-Funny Girl by Ronald Merullo; it could be described as a coming-of-age story with slight hints of Ellen Foster, but the setting, rural New England, was fresh for me. Talk-Funny Girl brought shades of Stephen King’s worlds of darkness and oddity but with incredible resilience bred from isolation and independence. Merullo uses a dialect that is completely brand new to me- one that is intriguing and unusual- and brings his story to life with imagery that puts me in a new and different place. Merullo’s protagonist, Marjorie, tells her story from her future so I had confidence that she survived her horrific home life, but the pacing and suspense of the story kept me on the edge of my seat and made me worry that she was an unreliable narrator. The story was also intriguing in its examination of Marjorie’s parents’ twisted backwoods’ religion with the hint of a murder mystery thrown in; Talk-Funny Girl felt like a realistic window into how poisoned a soul can become by extreme poverty and lack of education.
I was so happy to stumble upon this book and am thrilled to recommend it to my peers who are becoming as jaded as I!