Marlena by Julie Buntin


I am a member of Book of the Month Club and saw this book listed as a choice a few months back. I strayed away from it at first because some of the themes I saw it described as has been done to death… toxic female relationships in teenage years, the grown broken women looking back on her teenager years with regret: been there, read that.

However, this book was enjoyable, raw, vulnerable and felt real. I felt the boredom and apathy in her teenage years, the struggle with poverty. Having a best friend you love but ultimately don’t understand and have limited impact on.

The book cuts between two places: in Michigan (teenage years) and current day (New York), and is from the perspective of Cat as a 30 something year old woman reflecting on her teenage years and specifically her friendship with Marlena.

“I want to go home, I want to go home, but what I mean, what I’m grasping for, is not a place, it’s a feeling. But back where? Maybe to the first time I heard Stevie Nicks, to watching the snow fall outside the window with a paperback folded open in my lap, to the moment before I tasted alcohol, to virginity and not really knowing that things die, back to believing that something great is still up ahead, back to before I made the choices that would hem me into the life I live now.”

This book was a satisfying and important read, but ultimately a book I see no need to revisit at a later date. It’s a hard read in some parts, dealing with drugs as well, drug production and untimely death.

Overall, I give it 4/5 stars. Recommend if you enjoy the retrospective narrator, teenage girl friendships and difficult topics such as drug abuse, production and untimely death.

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