Book Review: The Girls from Corona del Mar

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The Girls from Corona del Mar is one fantastic and fabulous debut novel! A story of the changing dynamics of a friendship over a long period of time and the fight to keep that friendship alive and relevant was something I read in just under two days.

“Rufi Thorpe’s openhearted, open-eyed debut tells the engrossing story of a long friendship between two complex women and investigates the unpredictable, often baffling ways that luck shapes all of our lives. Gorgeous, soulful and tough.” Maggie Shipstead, author of Seating Arrangements and Astonish Me.

It is a splendid and superb look at a long term friendship beginning in elementary school and lasting through adulthood complete with all the challenges that occur in between, and all written with writing that flows, glimmers, and envelopes you in its warm glow. Thorpe’s writing was like silk falling off the page – the whole story was entertaining, humorous, heartbreaking and had many, many quotable moments that would take a considerable amount of time to transcribe here. Trust me, just go out and grab this book. Be forewarned however, be prepared to lose yourself completely in Mia and Lorrie Ann’s lives with all the twists, turns and heartbreak they experience.

Mia has always held Lorrie Ann on a pedestal of near perfection. Lorrie Ann’s family, through Mia’s eyes were perfect, Lorrie Ann’s entire being was based on perfection. She could just sit there and ooze perfection. In Mia’s eyes. Compared to Mia. They were the best of friends, forever. Especially when it was always Mia that experienced turmoil and trouble. Until, one day, Lorrie Ann’s luck seem to change. And from that moment on, as Lorrie Ann’s life takes a continuing downward spiral, Mia will struggle to find relevance and importance in this life-long friendship. It will become twisted, tested and confused but forever that pull and that need will always remain.

There are quite a few hard-hitting and difficult things to read in The Girls from Corona del Mar – it does not give you the warm and fuzzies all the time! But rest assured it is all written in great and splendid detail. We read of Lorrie Ann’s difficultly during childbirth, leading to the birth of a severely disabled son, we read of the loss of her husband, Jim and her subsequent spiral into drugs, her drug abuse, and then neglect and abandonment of her son Zach. We also read of Mia’s struggle to nail down love, but mainly of the confusion and loss she feels when she’s with the now adult Lorrie Ann. Also, what her boyfriend Franklin truly means to her and how all of this fits within the construct Mia has created around her friendship with Lorrie Ann.

Marissa Shipley published an article for the National Post on “The Truth About Mating For Life”   (based on her new novel, Mating for Life). And it was this last paragraph that really struck me as it was something Thorpe covered here, and quite well, in The Girls — it takes a lot (a lot, like a great deal) of work, (to not only maintain a marriage as Shipley writes of), to maintain and sustain a long-term friendship as well.

“I thought, as I wrote Mating for Life, that in the end I would be able to justify why it’s okay to walk away from a marriage when the going gets tough. But what started out as anything but a story about the redemptive power of love, in all its forms, turned out to be exactly that. I wrote about what it takes to love another person – not just a spouse, but a child, or a parent, or a sibling, or a friend – forever, and I realized in the process that this kind of love is a choice. That it takes work, and acceptance, and humility. And, as only a labour of love can, this book, and the writing of it, changed my life.”

The Girls from Corona del Mar left a definitive imprint upon my soul and left me thinking of my own long-term friendships with girlfriends, most dating back to elementary school, just like Mia and Lorrie Ann. It is a lot of work, and it does require as much work, patience and understanding required in a marriage! It also requires a new understanding or way of constructing that friendship as you embark on adult experiences requiring a new level of maturity. I’m extremely blessed to have kept the friendships of many of the girlfriends I’ve had since elementary-and-secondary school (and for sure even us here at the Literary Hoarders!), but there are also many friendships, and those from elementary and/or secondary school as well, that did not stand the test of time, which truly causes pain and sorrow (and most especially now after closing the pages of The Girls from Coruna del Mar!).

Again allow me to gush: The Girls from Corona del Mar is a splendid, beautifully written debut and one that comes with high, high recommendation to read. In fact, it’s already been handed over to Jackie here at the Literary Hoarders to read, and was given to her the moment I finished. She will, I’m certain, experience many emotions while reading and pondering her own life-long friendships (and one in particular I’m sure! 😉 with her very best bestie Jackie (Jackie squared?) 4.5 stars.

Thank you to Random House Canada for providing a copy of The Girls from Corona del Mar for the Literary Hoarders. It most definitely sits on our Literary Hoarders Approved Shelf. And thanks also to Rufi Thorpe for not reporting me to Twitter for what must have seemed like incessant stalking. 😉 I often and repeatedly tweeted my absolute love for this book to her and thanked her often for writing it. So…..when’s the next one? I’ll be first in line to read it!

Literary Hoarders Penny rev