ashley | It may not be the healthiest of habits, but I’m endlessly drawn to broken people. Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow grabbed me in title alone. A story about a girl in pieces. That is a girl I want to know. That is a girl I will no doubt relate to. I went into this with high expectations and prepared myself to be rubbed raw. Even so, the realness and rawness of this book stretched beyond my expectations and brought me to a place I haven’t been in a very long time. It cuts and it cuts deep.
As with a lot of stories about self-harm or depression or mental illness, this starts out in a mental institution and we are introduced to the group of girls our narrator Charlie is surrounded by. They all have various inflictions, different ways of self-harm, and it’s hard to not be pulled into this group, a strange fascination with their stories, how they got there, where they come from. We aren’t given a lot of information off the bat, but it builds the atmosphere, an atmosphere that is really hard not to compare to Girl, Interrupted. Charlie gets to tell her story too, in these diary-like snippets, and it’s pretty brutally honest. She rarely shares these thoughts with her doctors, in fact, she doesn’t even speak while she’s there, but we get to see inside of her head, we get to read what she is feeling, we get to go deep.
What I found most interesting about this story was that this wasn’t really about Charlie’s time in a hospital, but focuses more on what happens when she doesn’t have the funding to stay there and has to fend for herself in the real world. She isn’t on the street, but she has no idea how to do real things – like pay rent and utilities, buy groceries, open a bank account etc. Things we all sort of take for granted, Charlie is seeing for the first time. Her thoughts and feelings about loneliness and her struggles with her demons are so real and so well done. We watch her find a job and try and open herself up to people and continually struggle with her demons and the desire to cut and trying to stay clean.
This is a dark and depressing book. There’s no other way to put it. Bad things happened to Charlie, bad things continue to happen to Charlie. It’s like she is beaten and beaten and beaten by life to the point where you want to scream for it to stop. I’ve seen comments about it being too depressing, almost a little overdone with the hardships that come across her, but I kind of liked this darkness. It was hard to read, it was hard to witness, and I’m not trying to glamorize these situations for my own entertainment, but the low points, they made the high points all that much better and while they were few and far between, there were some beautiful things mixed in with all that darkness.
Some of those beautiful things were the people Charlie meets on the outside. The dangerous electricity between Charlie and Riley, the heartbreaking friendship between Mikey and Charlie, these relationships really got to me. They are broken and yet at the same time, beautiful. Charlie is broken, and yet at the same time, beautiful. I especially loved the way Charlie fell in with a group of girls and learned that special bond that female friends can bring to a friendship. She met some not so great people who tested her, but she met some really great people who helped her, too. And that was the light in this otherwise super dark and heart wrenching story.
I can’t imagine this was an easy book to write, it wasn’t an easy book to read, but it definitely was a worthwhile read and a stunning debut. This doesn’t claim to be any kind of memoir, but Glasgow shares some of her personal story at the end and I applaud her for rolling up her sleeves, putting herself out there and owning her past.
august 30, 2016