In this debut novel, Tupelo Hassman delivers the tale of Rory Hendrix, a young girl growing up in a Nevada trailer park. Surrounded by adults who both make and lose their money largely through booze and gambling, she navigates her youth learning the rules – very different from the laws – of the close-knit but very poor community. Her constant companion is an outdated girl scout manual, which provide her a sense of guidance and learning even during the difficult periods of her life.
Hassman gives Rory a unique voice, guided by the Girl Scout Handbook she cherishes and by the realistic inner voice of a girl growing up in circumstances beyond difficult. As Rory’s story unfolds, the reader is drawn into the minor secrets that make up the background of her family, and her own struggle to figure out whether to adapt or escape. Hassman smartly emphasizes the differences between regular middle-class life and that of Rory’s community by sneaking in bits of pop-culture and alluding to the role of government in people’s lives. Her treatment of the topics – and the characters – is respectful and illuminating.
If you are interested in a peek into a unique crevice of Americana, or enjoy coming-of-age stories, this is a great choice. Be aware of coarse language and sexual situations.