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"The Big Girls" by Susanna Moore

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Susanna Moore uses four voices/viewpoints to deliver the strong medicine of "The Big Girls": Helen has been incarcerated after being convicted of a ghastly crime; Louise, her prison psychiatrist; Captain Bradshaw, a prison guard; and Angie, a celebrated young actress in Hollywood. We follow Helen's and Louise's progress as they hack through the difficult - nay, torturous - thicket of Helen's life. Helping Helen find the truth behind her delusions takes a heavy toll on Louise, as Helen's celebrated case brings intense focus, welcome and unwelcome, on the two protaganists.

This book reminds us of the sickeningly common pattern of physical and sexual abuse of girls and women. With some, like Helen, it results in frightful hallucinations, a splintered personality, and a desperate, psychotic urge to protect her own children. Louise, Angie, and the guard, Ike Bradshaw all are drawn up in the powerful struggle. Even Louise's little boy is affected.

The characterizations are deep and fully realized here - no cardboard cutouts, no stereotypes. Ike, the most important male character, stands as a well-rounded, wounded person, grounded, and very considerate of Louise's feelings. He's even fairly benign toward the inmates, including the difficult ones. Ms. Moore's main success rests in her effective handling of this crippling emotional issue. This is a thought-provoking, sensitive read, and I recommend it for its deep dive into the minds and hearts of its four players.
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