What’s a reader to do when the author of her favourite book of all time, Velocity, encourages her to read another of her books. Said book, Kristin McCloy’s second novel, Some Girls, has been languishing on my tbr shelf for at least four years and clearly I intended to read it at some point – I wouldn’t have purchased it otherwise. The stakes are higher now, though. Not only have I recently re-read Velocity, but I’ve struck up a sort of email friendship with Ms. McCloy and I was terrified to read this book (I have her third book, Hollywood Savage also waiting to be read) for a variety of reasons – not the least of which is that I LOVE Velocity and nothing could ever be as good as that. Also, what happens if I don’t like this book or the next one. Gah!
Ok, I have my reader-angst out of the way.
Some Girls is the story of twenty-three-year-old Claire Stearn who flees Alamogordo, New Mexico for the bright lights of NYC circa 1989. She leaves behind her divorced and bitter mother, Ginny, her older sister, Paula, and her boyfriend, a rancher called Tommy. In many ways, Claire isn’t different from any other young person who, desperate to escape the confines of their lives, makes their way to a big city. Claire is “aware of her spine, the strength of her pelvic bones, the arches of her feet. It was all she needed to support her.” She’s ready to become herself.
New York City is very much a character In Some Girls. The 1989 version depicted in the novel isn’t the NYC of 2015. As Claire rides into the city from the airport she describes it as “a terror, glossy buildings rising out of a slum, a place of anarchy, crooked and lawless, impenetrable.” I remember that New York because I spent some time in the city in the 1980s. It was a little rough around the edges, but for a small-town girl like me still spectacular.
For that reason, I related to Claire’s assimilation. Those first few days, when Claire had “nothing but the speed with which she walked and her sunglasses to protect her” reminded me of me. I was so desperate to blend in, to not look like I knew nothing. I’m sure, in the early days, you could smell my terror from twenty paces. And like, Claire, I was constantly pinching myself and thinking “I’m here, I’m in New York City, a shock each time.”
McCloy captures the frenetic energy, the heat and the smells, the blast of icy cold, the patchwork quilt of humanity that is New York City and I liked revisiting the city through her lens very much.
Claire meets Jade the day she moves into her little downtown apartment. (I sort of imagine it in the area of Soho, but I wasn’t familiar with White Street so I had to look it up on the map.) Jade is, to Claire’s innocent eyes, “a woman of the city.” When they finally spend a little time together Claire feels “the crushing sense of anonymity that had dogged her ever since she had arrived suddenly turned to reveal its other face.” There is erotic tension between the two women from the start.
This relationship was a little harder for me to relate to than Ellie’s relationship with Jesse in Velocity. I am worldly enough now to know that sexuality is vastly more fluid than I might have viewed it when I was Claire’s age. I think my unease has more to do with the fact that I didn’t particularly care for Jade. She seemed self-centered and reckless and I never felt as though I knew her well enough to understand Claire’s attraction to her. She was startlingly beautiful, but surely there was more to it than that? That said, I felt as though Claire’s feelings – about Jade, about her life, about what she was leaving behind when she said good-bye to Tommy – were authentic. Complicated and messy, but certainly true.
Some Girls does a fine job of capturing a young adult on the precipice of figuring her life out, making choices that are both difficult and blindingly simple. While I may not have been able to relate to Claire’s relationship with Jade, I did love her journey and ultimately, isn’t that the point?
I also loved the writing in this novel. It was different from Velocity, which demonstrates the depth of McCloy’s talents, but still a pleasure to read.