“On the last day of August in 1970, and a month shy of her fourteenth birthday, Jory’s father drove his two daughters out to an abandoned house and left them there.”
When the first paragraph of a novel is as potent and provocative as the one you have just read, what would you do? I know I became fully awake. I then settled in for the long haul. I knew something powerful was already in the making. This made me very, very happy.
THE GIRL WHO SLEPT WITH GOD, by Val Brelinski, is yet another debut novel. How lucky to find two in a row that are just great reading. THE GIRL WHO SLEPT WITH GOD has already been chosen as an August Indie Next List selection. That means booksellers are taking notice. As well they should.
Brelinski grew up in rural Idaho, the daughter of devout evangelical Christians. She spent plenty of time reading the bible and attending services. She and her sisters were not permitted to read magazines, play cards, listen to rock music, or visit bowling alleys, movie theaters, or even restaurants that served alcohol. These experiences had a profound effect on Brelinski and became the emotional impetus for her entrancing debut.
Set in Arco, Idaho, in 1970, THE GIRL WHO SLEPT WITH GOD tells the story of three sisters: terrifyingly moral Grace, strong-willed Jory, and Frances, the youngest. Their dad teaches science at the local college and is a respected pillar of the community. Their mom spends most of her time in bed clutching a cold compress to her head while she suffers from deep depression as well as migraines.
Their world is turned upside down when Grace arrives home from a missionary trip to Mexico and they discover she’s pregnant with-she believes- the child of God. This is when dad sends Grace away with Jory to stay until this can be sorted out. You can only imagine the turmoil this causes in Jory’s life. After all, she’s in high school. And now is expected to change schools. Little does dad know that the school he is forcing her to attend is full off all the offending lifestyle choices he is such an advocate against. But, he is desperate.
I long for a story like this. Its uniqueness alone is reason for jubilation. However, the storytelling is second only to the prose which makes this novel a literary achievement.
I keep thinking of how I felt as I read THE ORCHARDIST by Amanda Coplin. And others are saying this novel reads like Marilynne Robinson. At any rate, this novel is right up there with the big ones this season.