Book Review Tuesday

Winner of an Alex Award for its cross-generational appeal, Rolland Merullo’s The Talk-Funny Girl is a book that embraces the margins.

The novel follows the story of a girl in an isolated mountain community who is even further isolated by her family’s cult affiliation and their unique dialect. Marjorie Richards endures profound physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her parents—punishments ordained by the religious cult in which her family is entangled. Shamed and pained through “boying,” “dousing,” “hungering,” and “facing,” Majie receives little reprieve at school, where her speech patterns elicit teasing from her classmates. Her well-being is further hampered by the community’s growing economic strain and increasing crime.

Majie’s life path veers, however, when in seeking employment outside the home, she encounters a newcomer to her town who offers her more than a job. He offers her friendship and a literal and figurative sanctuary amid her troubled life.

Bringing two victims of religious abuse together—Majie and Sands, a young man who himself was molested by a church leader as a child—Merullo sets them to constructing a stone cathedral in their community. Majie is initially guarded in her interactions with her enigmatic employer, but she slowly grows to trust him. Rebuilding on grounds where a previous church burned down, these two embark on a restorative journey, finding in architectural spaces and artistic exertion a renewal of their spirits and their faith in humanity and God.

This novel minimizes neither despair nor hope, depicting suffering as palpable and nearly unmitigated, but containing a redemptive element and the possibility of peace. Unflinching in its portrayal of the grittiness of life and the abuse that occurs under the guise of religion, it nevertheless embraces the spiritual and refuses to dismiss religion entirely. As a reader, I find the space that author Rolland Merullo carves with his words refreshing; the directive toward architecture and the arts, evocative and inspiring.

This book is located in the library with the call number JUV PS3563.E748 T35 2011.

Kari Husby, Access Services Technician


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