In scathing, furious, unforgettable prose, Eimear McBride tells the story of a young girl’s devastating adolescence as she and her brother, who suffers from a brain tumor, struggle for a semblance of normalcy in the shadow of sexual abuse, denial, and chaos at home. Plunging readers inside the psyche of a girl isolated by her own dangerously confusing sexuality, pervading guilt, and unrelenting trauma, McBride’s writing carries echoes of Joyce, O’Brien, and Woolf. A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is a revelatory work of fiction, a novel that instantly takes its place in the canon.
Sometimes, we look at people and we see how they live and we wonder what, exactly, is going on in their minds. But if given the chance, would we really want to know?
McBride’s raw, edgy novel is an extremely inside look at the life of a girl from her childhood to her young adult years, as she deals with relationships and family and the struggle to live a normal life. Written in a stream of consciousness, it gives the reader a completely unobscured look at her mind. The reader sees events only through her thoughts and emotions as she thinks and feels them. It’s an incredibly unique style, a story told in fragments and pieces that the reader must put together.
It took me a few tries to get into the novel, because it was written so differently than anything I’ve ever read. But once I was into it, I was hooked. The story is shocking from the beginning and only gets more so as it goes on. Choices she makes and choices that are made for her escalate and turn her into the young woman she becomes, and eventually threaten to destroy her. I was both saddened and frustrated for the character, whose name we never find out, as she makes mistakes and tries to change but inevitably returns again and again to the vices she knows are killing her.
A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing did not give me warm fuzzies when I put it down. Because of the dark nature and utter hopelessness of the prose, I don’t know if it’s one I will ever return to. What I do know is that if a fictionalized mind can be that dark and hopeless, how much more can a living human mind feel that way too?
With this astounding work of literary fiction, McBride reminds us that people are not always what they seem on the outside.
I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.