Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Book Review: The Girl in Duluth

You know I jumped on this review for the setting, right? I live in Superior (mentioned in the book!), which is neighbors with Duluth (just over the bridge), and everyone here is basically there at least once a week. I feel like I'm there enough to justify moving there but nah.... I'm staying on this side of the bridge. HA!

The Girl in Duluth - Sigrid Brown

When 18-year-old June Bergeron’s mother goes missing, June fears the disappearance could be connected to the unsolved murders of several women found in the woods near Duluth, Minnesota. As she starts to ask questions, she is pulled into an ugly and dangerous world of exploitation and abuse, and she discovers that everyone around her has been keeping secrets.

Set in a remote area of Minnesota on the Canadian border, The Girl in Duluth tells the story of not only one family’s troubled history, but of a shrinking rural community reckoning with issues of gender, class, and race. Candid and elegant, June’s voice also simmers with the uneasiness of a young woman who has suddenly become aware she can no longer be sure of anything.
Right off the bat, it is so weird to see places that you know, that you drive through frequently, or are generally familiar with show up in a book. I would be lying if I said I tried to bust out my Minnesota highway map to find all of the other places mentioned, but I couldn't. They were possibly made up, but I'm not sure. 

Alright, so the book begins with June, a teenager with an unreliable, possibly not real great mom, named Tonya. June is approached by Frank, Tonya's friend/we aren't really sure what he is to her, who tells her that Tonya is missing. At first, June isn't as concerned because Tonya has a history of disappearing for a few days without warning, but she always turns up. Frank is absolutely insistent that there is something wrong and that June come with him to search for her. At this point, I started getting weird vibes about Frank and honestly, they never went away, even at the end of the book when everything unfolds. Of course, Tonya is not found alive, and thus begins June's persistent investigation of her mother's death. She is absolutely sure it wasn't a suicide, but she's really the only one in that lane, but she's sure that it has something to do with the recent disappearances of girls/women in Duluth. 

We get a fairly large cast of characters (June, Frank, Tonya, Zee, police, newspaper editor, sketchy folks seemingly connected but we don't know how/why, etc.), and while this would add layers to most stories, it almost felt too much for me. It seemed like the author started handing us strings but instead of giving us a tight bow at the end, we've got a loose braid. I had to re-read the last third of the book twice to really understand the meat of the story. (Let me just insert here that the author definitely got the sketchiness of some of Duluth's neighborhood, and I definitely wouldn't recommend anyone hanging out by the large shipping docks, I can't say that I know of this area being a big human trafficking port. I mean, never in all my life have I even heard a peep about that on the news or even in rumor. Prostitution? You bet, we have actual "massage parlors" that very clearly are a happy-ending-only kind of place. 

Overall, while the beginning of the book was a bit slow for me, it seemed like it was a fast ride down the hills of Duluth towards the end. I appreciate that the author brings attention to a little known talked about issue of native and indigenious women and girls being victims of violent crimes and kidnapping with little fanfare because that is absolutely an issue we deal with around here. We have organizations and activists bring the topic to light, and every little bit helps. This is a problem all over, not just here, so it is something that we should all think about. 

My other quip is I had to keep reminding myself that June was only 17, she's still just a kid, because man alive..... she drove me nuts. I'm a parent to a 17 year old myself, so I understand what they are like, but phew.. she got to be a lot. Keeping in mind that she's just a kid, who lost her mom, and the rest of her life has now gone into a tailspin, so that helped to keep in mind. 

I think I'd give this one 3.5 stars, rounded to 4. It really is a fast read, and while the beginning is slow and you'll consider DNF'ing it, keep going because the conclusion leaves you looking at all of the characters completely differently. Thank you to Red Clover Digital and author Sigrid Brown for having me on this tour! 

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1 comment:

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Definitely sounds like a lot of characters to keep track of, but an ending that makes it worth reading is always nice!

Lauren @ www.shootingstarsmag.net