The Girls From Corona del Mar
My " in a nutshell" summary...
Simply put...this is the difficult story...the rough and raw story of two friends who grew up together.
My thoughts after reading this book...
My thoughts...rough at times. Difficult to read at times. Not at all the pretty book about growing up in California that I thought it would be. Lor...Lorrie Ann...Lolola and Mia. Always together, always sharing each other's secret. Mia always believed that Lor was the pretty one...the special one...the untouched one...until she wasn't anymore. When I say hard to read? I mean it...there were so many unpleasant things that happened to Lor. Her baby, her husband, her friends, her travels in India, her drug addiction...every single one of these issues was not pretty yet I never once wanted to stop reading this book. It was sort of a quest on my part to understand both Mia and Lor. Their story was a full and completed circle. When this book ended...I was both content and satisfied.
What I loved about this book...
The writing is beautiful...mesmerizing...magnetic.
What I did not love about this book...
I did not like the pictures in my head. I didn't like thinking about the things that Lorrie Ann saw while traveling with Arman through India. The drugs, the alchohol...none of it was appealing but such an integral part of the story.
I know that I haven't written much about what actually happened in this book. It's the kind of book that you choose to read and continue to read because of these characters. Their families, their lives were entwined and they seemed to always stay connected. Even when Mia was living in Istanbul and learns that Lorrie Ann is there...shoeless, hungry, drug addicted...it just seems normal that they connect again. I am not sure that they even liked each other at varying parts of their lives but they still sought each other...not always with fondness. But that was what they did.
on July 8, 2014
I received a copy of The Girls from Corona del Mar at the start of the July 4th weekend. Breezy summer beach reading it ain't. The book is gripping and challenging (in the best possible way.) I like books that echo in my head for days after I've finished reading them and The Girls from Corona del Mar is just that type of read. Though I have a hard time categorizing this novel - I have an easy time recommending it. Pretty amazing.
on August 2, 2014
I purchased this book because I had lived in Corona del Mar, a delightful little town in Southern California. Expecting a coming-of-age book about two teenage girls, I was unsurprised by the first few chapters. Ms. Thorpe's description of CDM was so accurate that memories came flooding back. In the nineties, CDM was what I called a toy town. Houses and streets were tiny, and it was not unusual for neighbors' lives to intertwine.
Suddenly, the story changed. Lorrie Ann, was considered by her best friend Mia, to be the special one, the golden girl, while Mia was in her mind, the plodding inferior. Mia idolized Lorrie and felt almost honored to have such a friend.
A series of tragedies befall Lorrie, and as the girls became adults, they grow apart. The story moves far from CDM, as Lorrie, now a drug addict, and her lover (?) travel to India. Mia and her scholarly boyfriend live in Turkey, both with the goal of being experts in the classics.
Eventually Lorrie appears almost unannounced at Mia's flat in Turkey. At this point, the story takes a turn which made it difficult for me to read more than a chapter or two at a time. The emotions between the two women were almost unbearably raw. I wondered if they had ever been friends. Lorrie, the hardcore addict, and Mia, the somewhat pompous academic, each passing judgment on the other, both of whom were partially correct.
Wanting to give nothing away, I thought the book ended as it had to.
The Girls from Corona del Mar is a book that does not disappear from memory after the last page. It contains much to think about, especially about one's friends. How well do we really know them?
on July 16, 2014
Don't misunderstand my 3-star rating -- I would (and often do) recommend this book. It's ambitious and largely relatable, powerful and beautiful.
This story of two women's lives and their evolving relationship with each other is a good wake-up call to so many social ills, and a surprisingly frank observation of self and interpersonal relationships.
The first half of the book is especially compelling. The characters experience life in very common ways, and the story is told with heart. Ominous foreshadowing and excellent imagery abound (the vultures of bad luck, the hammer to the toe, the narrator's cold black heart).
The second half is a bit more tedious, albeit still an interesting read, and very much true to the spirit of the first half. The plot here overwhelms the form; sentences become compound, important dialogues become inane, and largely gone is the powerful imagery that so nicely tied the first half together.
The author makes up for it with a strong, heartbreaking, yet viscerally redeeming conclusion. It's not a perfect novel, but it's a very good read. Recommended for the self-aware, the heartbroken, the selfless, and the self-centered.
on July 21, 2014
I loved this book. It was a quick and engrossing read. I'm not really sure why some people were expecting the characters hometown to play a more significant role...so in case you're expecting a novel about a city you'll be disappointed, because this is a novel about two friends. I also think it can be difficult to relate to the girl's friendship unless you've experienced a similar one. This is a book about the way we idealize our best friends, how they're a reflection of ourselves, how sad it is when two people grow apart instead of together. How you can never really know anyone, even your best friend. This book is profoundly sad. There are happy moments too and hope, and that's what life is: it can't be wrapped up neatly in a package with a the end, there's tears and laughter and either way life goes on.
on November 5, 2014
In one of the excerpts on the back cover, a reviewer said he regretted turning the last page. A few chapters in, much to the contrary, I regretted turning the first page. At that point I set the book in my "return to library" spot and wrote it off as a bad choice. But then curiosity (or something) made me pick it up again. I managed to get to a little over halfway before deciding it was just too depressing to keep going. It starts right out with an abortion followed by an absolute nightmare of a labor & delivery, resulting in the birth of a severely handicapped child. Then a horrifying detailed description of the death of an animal, which is what put me over the edge the first time. Keep going to the death of a human, plus a senseless physical assault so violent that the victim has permanent brain damage. Add a doped-up paraplegic war veteran and the child suffering pain and distress so severe that his mother contemplates ending his life as a kindness. Finally for me - and where I ultimately put an end to MY misery - hard-core narcotic drug addiction and the contemplation of yet another abortion. I just couldn't take it any more.
If you're looking for a pleasant read about best friends sharing life's experiences, keep shopping. I found nothing pleasant or even entertaining within these pages. Some have described it as "dark, thought-provoking, brutally honest, rough, raw, real," etc. Sorry, not enough adjectives in the dictionary to make me recommend this one.
This is a debut novel with an engaging hook. The story unfolds with a very retrospective flair, but Mia is the main narrator who describes her Southern California childhood in a frank tone that may surprise some readers (I guess here is where I have to freely admit that I expected something more Sweet Valley-like about their town - apparently this is a more Big Mesa type of community). At first Lorrie Ann and her golden family are untouched by the squalor surrounding them. But as the girls age, all of the “good luck” goes to the black-hearted Mia while one tragedy after another befalls Lorrie Ann.
Which makes this far from an uplifting read, as Lorrie Ann’s life becomes more and more heartbreaking - worsened by her poor methods of coping. The golden girl falls not only from the narrator (Mia)’s eyes, but also from the reader’s. And yet this is an engrossing read - the inclusion of the little-known Sumerian goddess’ story only adds more depth to the book as a whole. But, like a train wreck, the overwhelming pull of the book is negative, but hard to pull away from. There is plenty of fodder here for book clubs and discussion groups - but I have a feeling that this will be a more dichotomous type of novel without much room for a middling opinion.
As a reader who falls on the “love” side of the scale, I think that may be in part in how just how real Mia feels. But that is true of all the characters - Thorpe brings them all to life. It is an impressive debut and I am definitely looking forward to seeing what she will create next!
on August 26, 2014
I absolutely loved this book. The characters were so interesting and I kept reading to find out what was going to happen to them and how their lives would change. This book kept my interest because it wasn't a sweet, easy tale of friendship. It has real tough and even taboo issues. I would make up my mind and then change my mind about the characters at different times throughout the book. Mia as the narrator was edgy and sometimes crass, but I really liked that. At the end, I was left pondering the characters and spent time thinking about if things had been different maybe their friendship would have been different. I also wondered if they ever really even knew each other at all. Read it. It's definitely unlike any book I have read yet. It's a unique spin on female friendship that I don't think is often written about. Love it!
I finished The Girls from Corona Del Mar a few days ago, and am still processing what to say about this book. Mia and Lorrie Ann are characters I can't get out of my head.
There were some parts I really liked, and others that I just was not sold on.
Mia has always idolized her childhood friend, Lorrie Ann. Although the girls grew up in Corona del Mar, there is little of the story that takes place there. Instead, the story focuses mostly on Lorrie Ann and Mia's perception of Lorrie Ann's perfect life.
When Mia was with Lorrie Ann she felt special, and everything centered around her friend. As an adult, Mia is beginning to see that part of the bad luck that seems to find Lorrie Ann at every turn is a result of some poor decisions and unfortunate events that Lorrie Ann lived through. All of these happened without Mia's knowledge, leaving her to ponder how much she really knew her best friend.
The two women spend virtually no time together in their adult years, yet when troubles occur, Lorrie Ann always seem to find her way back to Mia.
The portions about Mia and Lorrie intrigued me, as did their pasts. Yet, other sections, such as Lorrie's drug use, were less interesting. I longed for these girls to be true friends to each other - to be those tanned girls with golden hair growing up in Corona del Mar.
Life is hard for Mia and Lorrie Ann, and although the ending is not happy, it seems realistic for the lives they have led. While this wasn't a novel I could hardly put down, it is one I haven't stopped thinking about.
The Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe is not the typical coming of age tale. This story is fraught with a lot of hard to digest moments in the life of the two main characters, Lor and Mia, growing up in the warm California sun and beyond. Far from it, in fact. This is not easy beach reading.
First, I want to say a bit about the writing, which was absolutely hypnotic in a way, considering some of the subject matter. If the writing had not been as high quality, the story lines might have forced me to not continue reading. So, props to the author for style, sensitivity and craftsmanship. This is also the author's first novel.
The story is basically the friendship of Lor and Mia - best friends - from Corona del Mar. Mia, who is challenged by a difficult family situation that includes divorced parents and an alcoholic mother, has always looked at Lor with amazement and admiration. To Mia, Lor has it all: beauty, innocence, a different type of family, and goodness that Mia doesn't see in herself. The story is told from the point of view of the adult Mia, whose life takes a back seat to the story of Lor's life. It's ultimately about the roles people take on in relationships - roles that may be hard to overcome even over decades because they exist in the very core of a person's belief system.
The two girls share many experiences, both getting pregnant, for example, but making different decisions about the outcome of the pregnancies. Lor's life, however, hits a crossroad when her father is killed, suddenly, by a drunk driver. Lor's life trajectory is now in freefall and one thing after another after another accelerates the freefall until she hits rock bottom.
As with many youthful relationships, the two grow up and grow apart. They meet up at various milestones in life, never really finding that sweet spot of friendship the way it once was. However, Mia holds on to the relationship out of a sense of obligation or a misguided habit of keeping Lor on a pedestal. But Lor isn't the person Mia has idolized. Her life degrades into drug addiction and some other very awful, disturbing things. Despite all of this, Mia holds onto the old ideas about who they are to each other. Mia's idea of the roles they play in each other's lives are just that - Mia's ideas and not necessarily the realities of the situation.
In the end, there is no real redemption for anyone other than realizing the roles that Mia and Lor took on were, in fact, the opposite of what the reality was. It's Mia's inability to grasp this that is the ultimate sadness for the reader, in the end.
Be prepared for a disturbing and hard read that you will not be able to put down.