A Novel

Book - 2017
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"Everything about fifteen-year-old Cat's new town in rural Michigan is lonely and off-kilter, until she meets her neighbor, the manic, beautiful, pill-popping Marlena. Cat, inexperienced and desperate for connection, is quickly lured into Marlena's orbit by little more than an arched eyebrow and a shake of white-blond hair. As the two girls turn the untamed landscape of their desolate small town into a kind of playground, Cat catalogues a litany of firsts -- first drink, first cigarette, first kiss -- while Marlena's habits harden and calcify. Within the year, Marlena is dead, drowned in six inches of icy water in the woods nearby. Now, decades later, when a ghost from that pivotal year surfaces unexpectedly, Cat must try to forgive herself and move on, even as the memory of Marlena keeps her tangled in the past. Alive with an urgent, unshakable tenderness, Julie Buntin's Marlena is an unforgettable look at the people who shape us beyond reason and the ways it might be possible to pull oneself back from the brink"--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York :, Henry Holt and Company,, 2017
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781627797641
Characteristics: 274 pages


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Jul 21, 2019


Feb 15, 2018

Only completed it because it was a book-club read. Depressing story that didn't go anywhere. Didn't care for the reference to Northern Michigan but using different/fictional towns. Either create completely or use actual. Story line was dull - occasional references to something big then ...Would not recommend even to the avid reader without preference.

Jan 18, 2018

I did not complete this book -- and it is highly unusual for me to not give an author "just one more chapter" to catch my interest. I did not care for the clumsy back and forth in time, and the dialogue was bland and uninteresting. The relationships - dismal. The storyline - depressing. I can deal with depressing stories, but usually an author interjects a ray of hope or sunshine somewhere for a little relief. It hadn't happened by page 50, so enough was enough.

Dec 02, 2017

This contemporary coming of age tale offers a bleak, compelling portrait of teenagers struggling to overcome despair in rural Northern Michigan, by turning to substance abuse. I was absorbed by Julie Buntin's detailed and sympathetic descriptions of the chaotic daily lives of her teenaged characters. Narrator Cat is an alcoholic adult whose teen years were disrupted by divorce. Forced to leave a school she loved to move with her mother, she befriended new neighbor Marlena, an older girl whose father manufactured crystal meth. Cat survived into adulthood, Marlena did not. Now in her 30s Cat's alcoholism threatens to destroy her life as she recalls her teenage past.

Jun 18, 2017

The story is at times quite compelling, but I did find that my interest waned from time to time. A promising debut from Buntin.

Jun 09, 2017

Besides a perceptive and internal view of the effects of drugs on family and friends this story shows how Marlena and her developing relationships are heavily influenced by each other.
Marlena's mother is gone, father has a meth lab and her life spins out of control. Control is what she seeks in her world of conflicting role models. If you haven't known someone with a drug problem or have had teenage kids in a world of conflicting desire this is a good read. If you have it's a bleak reminder. Not a happy story but written with depth and sympathy.

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