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Sweetgirl - book review by Debra Bradley


Sixteen-year-old Percy has an unreliable mother – she’s been missing for nine days, and may right now might be flaked out in the meth house up in the hills. So even though it’s snowing Percy heads off in her truck to retrieve her.

She gets to the house, where Shelton the meth dealer is asleep on the couch, and a woman who is not Percy’s mother is lying flat on the floor nearby. Percy tiptoes past them, looking for her mother, and instead comes across a dead dog – likely dead from being forgotten about – and then a baby in a cot by an open window with snow so close.

Not thinking too much about it, she grabs the baby and makes a run through the snow in the middle of the night, to the only person she can think of in these hills who can help her. Portis was with her Mum for maybe a year, back when Percy was seven or eight, and that was the best time the family has known. They even went bowling.

Percy’s sister Starr has escaped the craziness and now has a baby of her own in Portland. And Portis has given up on Percy’s Mum too. So it’s just Percy, sticking around for her Mum.

The relationship between Portis and Percy is the star of this novel. Their dialogue is so surprising and clever – even though Portis is never far from a whisky bottle he is fully on to it. The pair have to travel miles across the snow in the dark because they know Shelton and his crew will be chasing them down, looking for that baby.

Moving between Percy and Shelton’s point of view., Shelton the gun-wielding ogre is a surprisingly sympathetic character even though he is totally messed up.

The crystal clear writing, and stunning dialogue, carries the reader through the snow with all these characters, gripped by the chase and the terrible consequences of getting tracked down out here.

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