- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Books; 1st edition (February 3, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679769447
- ISBN-13: 978-0679769446
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 51 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #443,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
What Girls Learn: A Novel Paperback – February 3, 1998
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
From the Inside Flap
In the most moving and emotionally stirring fictional debut since Anna Quidlen's One True Thing or Mona Simpson's Anywhere But Here, Karin Cook gives us a novel about girls and their mothers, about sibling rivalry and kinship, about the mysterious tug between love and antagonism that lies at the heart of every family. The year Tilden turns twelve, her mother, Frances, falls in love and moves the family north. Soon the watchful, wise Tilden and her rebellious younger sister, Elizabeth, are navigating a new household amidst the awkward and alluring terrain of adolescence.
But when Frances suddenly discovers a lump in her breast, her daughters must confront the unpredictablility of her illness. With heartbreak and humor, these characters exposes a world of secrets and learn to survive in the face of life's contradictions. Funny, haunting, and unflinchingly truthful on every page, What Girls Learn is a book that will be read--and cherished-- for years to come.
From the Back Cover
"Cook triumphs completely . . . in her achingly nuanced depiction of a young girl's fierce love for her brave mother."
--The New York Times Book Review
"A poignant first novel. . . . Cook skillfully captures the fumbling steps young girls take toward adulthood."
"Keen and original. Reading Cook's affecting first novel is as intimate and disarming an experience as finding a teenager's secret diary under the mattress."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"Poignant and affecting. . . promising and revealing."
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
I read the reviews that mentioned the fact that you should have left the last chapter out. WELL WHAT DO THEY KNOW?! I am an advid reader and also one who has lost her mother. The chapter was a little wacky and it rambled on. But that's where you are when you loose your mother people. Karin chose to put that chapter in the book to put into words what every child (even adult) feels when their mom goes away.
Your last chapter was necessary and thoughtful. The entire book was very real, in a sense that sisters will bicker, mothers will keep secrets to save their children's heartache, mothers will hover over them to make sure they know all the rules and mothers will have lives and boyfriends and they won't always be there with you.
I shared the last chapter with my co-worker, (who lost her mom 20 yrs ago), and she cried with me. She said it was the best chapter in the entire book. Thank you
But heartbreak is on their heels. Their mother is suddenly at the hospital alot, and comes home to lose her hair, and her brother, Uncle Rand, comes to live with them and help. There's something a bit off about Uncle Rand, and Tilden, already lost in a maelstrom of adolescent emotions surrounding her little sister's popularity and maturing has to deal with the complicated issues of inappropriate feelings and loss as she faces the truth about her mother's illness.
I'm a breast cancer survivor myself and the mother of two adolescent girls. Although I am not currently facing the diagnosis of the mother in this book, reading Tilden's oblivious and purposefully self-deceiving view of the progress of her mother's disease was eye-opening. I'm not sure how authentic a voice it is, and sometimes I think the addition of the Uncle Rand bits made things a bit more sordid and snarly than I think necessary to serve the emotional heart of the story: girls facing the loss of the only permanent family they've ever known. But it is easy to forget, when you're deep into the medical details of your own diagnosis, how overwhelming and scary that medical terminology is for kids and how easy it is for them to be anxious due to misunderstandings.
What was eye-opening, was reading from Tilden's perspective how oblivous she was to the true emotions in the other characters. How her step-father Nick truly cared for them all and only ran interference because her mother was dead-tired. Or how her friends resented her pulling away as her mother got more sick, or how her sister, whom she perceived as popular and beautiful, might feel jealous at the smallest sign of affection from their mother.
The events of the book came through a bit vague and muddled, like seen through a blurred camera lens. I'm not sure if that was the effect of Tilden's clueless voice, or a kind of purposeful white-misting over painful events, but I think the story lost some of its emotional impact due to this quality.
Karin Cook weaves a poignant story told by Tilden (who at the beginning is 12). Tilden also has a younger sister, Elizabeth, who is just one year younger than her. As with any siblings, there is a lot of jealousy and competition between the two of them. When Tilden and Elizabeth's mother decides to move the family up to New York, their whole lives change. Not only does the rift between the two sisters widen, but the closeness they once shared with their mother must now be shared with Nick (their Mom's new boyfriend). When their mom finds a lump in her breast their lives go downhill and things really begin to change.
With the main characters going through the age when puberty is happening and their lives have been turned upside down, you really begin to feel that you know the two girls. I was hooked once I started and wanted to know how things turned out. I sympathized with them, laughed with them, and cried with them. Karin Cook's writing debut is wonderful and will gladly read her next book and hope I won't be disappointed!