Seventeen year old Marjorie, or the slurred Majie from her parent’s lips, lives in an old factory town in New Hampshire with her physically and emotionally abusive parents, attends a church led by a similarly abusive preacher, and attends a school where she is known as the “talk funny girl” because of her use of a mountain dialect impressed upon her by her uneducated father. Marjorie’s entire life has been suffering, worrying, and hiding…but one day she is offered an stonemason’s apprenticeship that helps her grow stronger alongside the cathedral she is building.
This story is wrenching and even unbelievable at times; how could someone endure all of that (probably illegal) treatment from her parents, and never run away or ask for help? Is fear that crippling? Or did she never seek a way out because she didn’t think herself worthy of a better life?
Awfully tiresome at times, Merullo goes on and on and on when one or two pages could have sufficed. This book had little dialogue, and therefore relied on Marjorie’s narration to pull the story ahead, which was dull at times. But when the narrator is so introspective…it is difficult to skip a passage just to get through the chapter. So you find yourself re-reading what you essentially read a few chapters back, because you’re afraid you’ll miss a new revelation that pops up in the middle of a paragraph and sinks away as quickly as it came up. (Which I did a couple times. Silly me, forgetting my New Years Resolution of reading more thoroughly…)
I am glad I read The Talk-Funny Girl. I doubt I will recommend this to any teens, despite it being a 2012 Alex Award Winner (an award for adult books that appeal to teen readers). But I will advise it to adults, especially the ones who don’t need dialogue to enjoy a book, and who can endure dull spots to find the shining ones.