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Girl Trouble: Stories Paperback – September 1, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The eight stories in this debut collection maintain a sense of isolation and loss while depicting and dissecting the lives of drifting characters making questionable decisions in a quiet Kentucky town. In the title piece, a father is faced with a moral quandary when his 19-year-old son is accused of raping a local teenager. The others follow similar themes of emotional voids and gaps in trust. In Upright Man, a college-bound town kid, Matt, befriends large and muscular and handsome country-boy Robbie while doing manual labor the summer after graduation. Though Robbie helps Matt get his first girlfriend, Matt secretly desires Robbie's girl and discovers how easily betrayal overcomes good intentions. The strongest entries are Parts and Proof of God, opposite sides of the same tale, narrated in turn by the mother who loses her daughter in a horrific crime, and the college classmate who killed her. Throughout each, the fallible characters are handled with delicate honesty. Though the setting tends to feel repetitive, Jones writes with grace and ease, the selections adding up to a powerful sum of reflection, loss and regret. (Sept.)
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Review

“Gritty, eloquent dispatches from the heartland. . . . Jones’ hauntingly accomplished language lifts the mundane to the level of profound tragedy.” (Chicago Tribune)

“Jones writes with grace and ease, the selections adding up to a powerful sum of reflection, loss and regret.” (Publishers Weekly)

“This masterful debut dramatizes the fortitude of small-town southerners confronting situations gone terribly wrong and the shadowed boundaries of love, morality, and violence. . . . Jones’ seemingly effortless style makes the eight tales quietly powerful and achingly human.” (Booklist)

“Powerful . . . Strong, subtly nuanced.” (The News & Observer)

“Poignant and approachable-ripe for any audience. The human touch and prairie isolation of her characters are pitch perfect. . . . Jones’ prose is also sharply intellectual. With a debut as striking as Girl Trouble, Jones could very well join the tradition of America’s great Southern writers.” (New York Press)

Girl Trouble resonates with black-coal sorrow and dark truths found in [Jones’s] native state’s darkest hollers. . . . Nothing is contrived; every story is steeped in reality, and clarity comes with a price.” (The Nashville Scene)

“Jones exposes a world that is darkly seductive.” (Oxford American)

“Jones’ sparkling debut collection zeroes in on lonely searching souls making do in a quiet Kentucky town.” (People)

“Holly Goddard Jones is blessed with wisdom beyond her years, a gimlet eye, and an enviable literary talent; her debut collection, GIRL TROUBLE, is a fierce and exhilarating achievement.” (Claire Messud, author of The Emperor’s Children)

“No politician should ever again use the phrase ‘The American People’ without reading this book, preferably twice, so that they understand at last just who the hell they’re talking about. Holly Goddard Jones has a voice as expansive, complex, and beautiful as the country itself.” (Joshua Ferris, author of Then We Came to the End)

“A grand debut of a writer who is assured, sensitive, and wonderfully skillful. . . . A marvelous work of heartbreaking wisdom.” (Edward P. Jones)

“GIRL TROUBLE is a powerful, resonant short story collection from the uniquely talented Holly Goddard Jones.” (George Pelecanos)

“The stories from Girl Trouble are poignant and approachable-ripe for any audience. The human touch and prairie isolation of her characters are pitch-perfect. . . . Sharply intellectual. With a debut as striking as Girl Trouble, Jones could very well join the tradition of America’s great Southern writers.” (Las Vegas Weekly)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061776300
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061776304
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,095,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Pamela A. Poddany VINE VOICE on December 27, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
GIRL TROUBLE

Each of the eight short stories in this book takes place in Roma, Kentucky. Holly Goddard Jones takes normal everyday people and writes about their lives, situations, hopes, fears, dreams, and just -- life in general.

Every story was exceptional, shocking, down to earth, and written by Goddard with such genius. Definitely NOT chick lit, these stories left me gasping for air, sometimes in tears, but always satisfied with the written word.

A few favorites --

ALLEGORY OF A CAVE

Poor Ben has eye trouble, has to wear thick glasses, is shy, has no friends, and may be going blind. His dad is a truck driver and gone during the work week, leaving Ben and his mom alone most of the time, a situation they find easy to live with. Ben and his mom are close and have an outstanding relationship. Ben is a good kid, but lonely, and after an incident at school his dad tries to help him along and teach him a life lesson. Does his dad make a good decision?

LIFE EXPECTANCY

A high school basketball coach is married with a small daughter who is seriously ill. He runs a tight team and demands a lot from his girl players. His life is turned upside down when his star player tells him she is pregnant. How does this effect both of their lives?

These are just two of the eight. Don't expect sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows from these stories. These shorts are hard-hitting and tough dealing with divorce, affairs, pregnancy, rapes, murder. They relate the thoughts and feelings of every character involved -- and the characters! -- such great, fleshed-out, real characters. These characters are people you could know, they are so real and down to earth.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an excellently written collection of stories. One of them may be one of the best short stories I've ever read.

The tales told here are mostly tragic or unhappy ones—people trying to get over the past or plow through the present. Boys and girls come of age, adults nurse their wounds, and sometimes they catch a glimmer of healing or briefly escape the tangles of their lives. The tragedies can be brutal here—rape and murder play roles in several of the pieces—but Jones never lets those events overpower the story, never lets them become one note. Instead, they become very sad springboards for exploring emotions like regret, desire, fear, revenge, and loss. It's this exploration that exposes Jones' true talent. She writes about feelings in ways that feel fresh and very real, raw and extremely poignant, with layers of emotions for characters to experience, digest, and balance. To her credit, I was often pulled in to feel with them.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Girl Trouble reads less like a first book of short stories by a young writer than it does like a sixth or seventh book of short stories by an old master. Here you will find no fancy tricks of language or form. Instead you will find a pleasing and plainspoken account of the interior lives of men and women intelligent enough to warrant stories as richly rendered as these. Jones is a master of the difficult machinations of the close third person point of view, and as we upshift and downshift the distance between the exterior world of the telling and the interior world of the teller, we do it so seamlessly that we're hardly aware we're doing it at all, and the effect upon the reader is an extraordinary immersion in the character in the midst of his or her place, which here isn't a pile of sticks and rocks and dirt, but is instead a way of being in the working class world of western Kentucky, where, if these stories are to be trusted, the people are fierce, generally good-hearted, and inclined to do the things they know will undo them, knowing full well their deeds will undo them, because they are somehow or other compelled, the way all of us sooner or later are, to whatever degree.

Most of these stories wrap themselves around some high event: a violent act, a glimpse at the shocking, a life-altering memory. But the stories are not lurid or Gothic in any sense. This isn't Flannery O'Connor. The preoccupation of the stories, instead, is a long and steady gaze at what reckonings with the extraordinary will do to ordinary people, and how they do and don't settle back into their lives in the aftermath.
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Format: Kindle Edition
In my review, I tried to give a synopsis of each story without any spoilers, along with a sample quote to showcase the author’s writing. Holly Goddard Jones is a talented writer in the same way Richard Yates, Andre Dubus, and Raymond Carver convey the dangers of dead end streets in suburbia or domestic complacency. I don’t think of her as a regional writer, as some reviewers have in their reviews. Is that same accusation leveled at Tom Franklin, William Gay, Joe Lansdale, Donald Ray Pollock, or Daniel Woodrell?

Good Girl. Jacob is a widower, trying to redefine love in his relationship with Helen when his son is arrested for rape. Helen is the voice of reason. Tommy is trouble. A father has to make a choice.

“There were lots of ways to love, he thought now – ways that made you a better person than you were, maybe, and ways that got you through lonely times, and also ways that could destroy you if you let them.”

Life Expectancy. Coach has a daughter at home with cystic fibrosis. He thinks he’s in love with Josie, a basketball player on his team, who announces that she’s pregnant with his child. Some readers might think that this is a tale told by an idiot man-child.

“He and Mia, two unknowing defectives, had somehow found each other, beaten the odds, and brought forth a child who was drowning in her own chest because the two of them should never have been together in the first place.”

Parts. Dana has lost a part of her life, her daughter Felicia. This story plumbs the depths of grief and mourning, the inane legal system, violence and the dissolution of a marriage. Dana’s questioning her husband, a doctor, whether he gets aroused from examining his patients, was a bit unnerving.
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