Saturday 23 August 2014

The Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe

Mia and Lorrie Ann are lifelong friends: hard-hearted Mia and untouchably beautiful, kind Lorrie Ann. 
While Mia struggles with a mother who drinks, a pregnancy at fifteen, and younger brothers she loves but can't quite be good to, Lorrie Ann is luminous, surrounded by her close-knit family, immune to the mistakes that mar her best friend's life. 
Until a sudden loss catapults Lorrie Ann into tragedy: things fall apart, and then fall apart further - and there is nothing Mia can do to help. And as good, kind, brave Lorrie Ann stops being so good, Mia begins to question just who this woman is and what that question means about them both. 
A staggeringly arresting, honest novel of love, motherhood, loyalty, and the myth of the perfect friendship that moves us to ask ourselves just how well we know those we love, what we owe our children, and who we are without our friends.

The Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe was published by Hutchinson on 14th August, and was longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize.

California ~ land of sunshine and beautiful people. A place that is always depicted as a land of plenty, of success, of happiness. That's the California that is sold to the rest of the world, the image that is conjured up by millions as they think of year-long summers and beautiful beaches.

Mia and Lorrie Ann live in Corona del Mar, California. It's the early nineties and house prices have fallen and the sun doesn't appear to shine quite so brightly as we would be led to believe. This is the real California; a place where families are imploding, where child-neglect happens and alcoholism is rife.

Lorrie Ann appears to have it all, despite the changing world around her. To her friends, she is extraordinary, not least because she is surrounded by a family that love her.

As Mia and Lorrie Ann grow up, their friendship remains strong. Mia is the one who makes the major mistakes in life. And then tragedy strikes Lorrie Ann, and everything she had and believed in disappears. She starts a melt-down that will continue for many years whilst Mia watches helplessly, wondering how and why Lorrie Ann turned into this.

From their early years in Corona del Mar, through India and into Turkey, Rufi Thorpe tells the story of an incredibly complex, often painful and at times very dangerous friendship. This is writing that hits very hard, the rawness and the reality is stark and pulls no punches, yet the enduring need of these two characters remains at the forefront.

Female friendship is a mysterious thing. Rufi Thorpe explores the fine detail that bonds two women together despite the pain that both of them can cause to each other. Mia can never quite forget that Lorrie Ann had such a better start in life than she did, and although she always appears to be supportive and loyal, that touch of jealousy is always there. Lorrie Ann appears selfish and cold whilst at times showing incredible strength and love towards those dearest to her, but that streak of narcissism is always present.

The Girls from Corona del Mar is a short novel at just under 250 pages, but it can be a very difficult read at times. Rufi Thorpe does not shy away from the harsh realities of this incredibly complicated and long-standing friendship. She writes with passion and realism, creating characters who are far from perfect, yet are unforgettable in their own way. 

This is a debut novel from an author who writes brilliantly with some fabulous characterisation and a sense of place that will transport the reader across continents and decades.  An excellent read that I recommend highly.

My thanks to Rachel from the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Rufi Thorpe received her MFA from the University of Virginia in 2009. Currently, she lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and son. The Girls from Corona del Mar is her first novel.

More information about Rufi Thorpe and her writing can be found on her website, her Facebook Author Page, or by following her on Twitter @RufiThorpe

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