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Marlena
by Julie Buntin


Overview -

An electric debut novel about love, addiction, and loss; the story of two girls and the feral year that will cost one her life, and define the other s for decades

Everything about fifteen-year-old Cat s new town in rural Michigan is lonely and off-kilter, until she meets her neighbor, the manic, beautiful, pill-popping Marlena.  Read more...


 
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More About Marlena by Julie Buntin
 
 
 
Overview

An electric debut novel about love, addiction, and loss; the story of two girls and the feral year that will cost one her life, and define the other s for decades

Everything about fifteen-year-old Cat s new town in rural Michigan is lonely and off-kilter, until she meets her neighbor, the manic, beautiful, pill-popping Marlena. Cat, inexperienced and desperate for connection, is quickly lured into Marlena s orbit by little more than an arched eyebrow and a shake of white-blond hair. As the two girls turn the untamed landscape of their desolate small town into a kind of playground, Cat catalogues a litany of firsts first drink, first cigarette, first kiss while Marlena s habits harden and calcify. Within the year, Marlena is dead, drowned in six inches of icy water in the woods nearby. Now, decades later, when a ghost from that pivotal year surfaces unexpectedly, Cat must try to forgive herself and move on, even as the memory of Marlena keeps her tangled in the past.

Alive with an urgent, unshakable tenderness, Julie Buntin s Marlena is an unforgettable look at the people who shape us beyond reason and the ways it might be possible to pull oneself back from the brink.

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Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781627797641
  • ISBN-10: 1627797645
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
  • Publish Date: April 2017
  • Page Count: 288
  • Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Contemporary Women

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2016-11-14
  • Reviewer: Staff

In her impressive debut novel, Buntin displays a remarkable control of tone and narrative arc. In a keenly observed study of teenage character, narrator Catherine, 15, is miserable in the ramshackle house her newly divorced mother has bought in the dismal town of Silver Lake in northern Michigan. When she meets Marlena, her glamorous 17-year-old next-door neighbor, Cat is smitten with the euphoria of having a best friend. Buntin is particularly sensitive to the misery of adolescent angst, and Cats growing happiness in Marlenas friendship runs like an electric wire through the narrative. Marlena is dangerous, however: she runs with a bad crowd, and her father cooks meth. From the beginning, we know that Marlena is irresistible, reckless, and brave; shes a mother substitute for her forlorn younger brothermusically talented, beautiful, and doomed to die young. Its only later that Cat understands that Marlena is the needy one in their relationship. Her bravado hides desperation; she fears shell never get out of Silver Lake, that she has no future, and that there were kids like us all over rural America. Almost 20 years later, living in New York with her husband and working at a good job, Cat is still damaged by losing Marlena. Crippled by the pain at the utter core of me, she takes refuge in alcohol and memories. The novel is poignant and unforgettable, a sustained eulogy for Marlenas glow... that lives in lost things, that sets apart the gone forever. Agent: Claudia Ballard, WME Entertainment. (Apr.)

 
BookPage Reviews

Haunted by a brief, intoxicating friendship

From its brilliant opening sentence, “Tell me what you can’t forget, and I’ll tell you who you are,” Julie Buntin’s debut novel creates a hauntingly original atmosphere for a familiar story. In Marlena, a woman in her 30s recalls events from two decades earlier, when a brief friendship had a profound impact on her life.

When Cat was 15, she and her “full-blown poor” family, which included her divorced mother and older brother, moved from their home in a Detroit suburb to a “grubby half-acre” in the woods of Silver Lake, Michigan. As she helps unload the U-Haul, Cat meets Marlena Joyner, two years her senior, who lives nearby in “a renovated barn coated in layers of lilac paint that were sticky to the touch.”

Cat and Marlena become best friends. Their friendship lasts only a year, until Marlena “suffocated in less than six inches of ice-splintered river.” But it’s a life-changing year for Cat, one in which Marlena introduces her to a world very different from her accustomed environment. She encourages Cat, an excellent student in her previous school, to cut classes, drink heavily and take recreational drugs. And Marlena’s father is hardly a stabilizing influence; he cooks meth in a railcar behind their house.

Today, Cat has a prominent job in New York, but the effects of her Silver Lake years remain. She still struggles with alcoholism, and when Marlena’s younger brother, Sal, who was 8 when his sister died, calls Cat to say that he’s in town, events from a past she never quite forgot come rushing back.

Despite an error in chronology—YouTube, which figures into the narrative, wasn’t around 20 years ago—Marlena is still an unforgettable portrait of teenage confusion and experimentation, a time when one discovers “that time doesn’t belong to you. All you have is what you remember.”

This article was originally published in the April 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews