The Shining Girls

Review From User :


this book is going to end up being the "it" book of the summer, and probably beyond, because some of you are slow to catch on, and it deserves a longer "it" cycle.

it is about a time traveling serial killer.

which sounds like drunken-mad-libs, but it works. time travel (the idea of time travel) frequently either makes my head hurt,

or is just too silly for me to care about

but this one is different. the time travel is never given any scientific justification - it just is and you accept it or you read a different book. a man finds a magic house that is both his and not-his, whose door opens to different points in the past, and it is filled with objects that he both recognizes and doesn't-recognize. are we having fun yet

basically, these objects create a pull in him, a need to move through time to track down the girls to whom these objects belonged, to take/to have taken these things from them when they were young and when he first identifies them as one of his "shining girls" and then to return to them years later, and murder them.

so it is his story and their stories, and the story of the one who got away without him knowing. hunter, hunted, and magic house in a chronological tangle that works perfectly.

in a way, it reminded me of life after life, because as each shining girl is introduced, you can't help but feel a character-attachment to them even though you know what is coming, just like you knew ursula was going to come to a bad end over and over, but you couldn't help feeling optimistic that maybe this time will be the time she makes it through.

i've also heard it being called "dragon tattoo with time travel,"and while it has shades of that in its mutilating of women/female vigilante aspect, this one doesn't have any gratuitous sexual violence for the book to spend way too much time describing, and it has real recognizable characters that aren't cartoons.

girls who shine seem to grow up to be women with purpose, women who subvert traditional gender roles to become welders in wartime or fight their way into a boys-club architecture firm, or who have the potential to change opportunities for women as they assist in abortion clinics or encourage young women-at-risk to overcome their circumstances. but this might be overthink: the murders are gendered, obviously, but there isn't a lot of time spent on motive, because there isn't motive. it is more chilling
because there is no real reason for it except a compulsion - a gut-based instinct rather than a measured philosophy about why these girls. they shine through time, and that is enough, but there isn't a connective thread, except the one he creates by killing them and swapping their totemic-objects. and he makes mistakes along the way. with girls who lose their shine, with falling for appearances, with experimenting with his methodology, and with accidentally leaving kirby alive. this is not a preternatural mastermind; just a man with a twisted need to kill who happened to stumble upon a magic house.

and the story is horrifying, obviously. the murders are graphic, to those of you who know who you are and have limits. there will be entrails. and a sad dog story that somehow gets sadder.

but at the same time, it can be genuinely funny. kirby is great. she is tough without coming across as a cartoon, like lisbeth does. you love her because she has overcome but still remains so normal. not a victim, but not some superior vigilante, either. she definitely takes charge of her situation, but she still has soft edges; she is not caricature. and she shines.

greg was just telling me a couple of weeks ago
and then wrote in his review of the book that with lethem's female character in dissident gardens, lethem keeps telling you she is smart and sexy but you never really see it as a reader because he's not great at writing women. here, you see all of kirby: her vulnerability, her love and irritation with her mother, her frustration with her symbolic status as "survivor", her anger and her determination and her drive to finding answers that will sometimes land her into uncomfortable situations. and you can see why she was singled out to begin with.

definitely make this part of your summer reading list.

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The future is not as loud as war, but it is relentless. It has a terrible fury all its own.”

Harper Curtis is a killer who stepped out of the past. Kirby Mazrachi is the girl who was never meant to have a future.

Kirby is the last shining girl, one of the bright young women, burning with potential, whose lives Harper is destined to snuff out after he stumbles on a House in Depression-era Chicago that opens on to other times.

At the urging of the House, Harper inserts himself into the lives of the shining girls, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He’s the ultimate hunter, vanishing into another time after each murder, untraceable-until one of his victims survives.

Determined to bring her would-be killer to justice, Kirby joins the Chicago Sun-Times to work with the ex-homicide reporter, Dan Velasquez, who covered her case. Soon Kirby finds herself closing in on the impossible truth . . .

THE SHINING GIRLS is a masterful twist on the serial killer tale: a violent quantum leap featuring a memorable and appealing heroine in pursuit of a deadly criminal.

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