Marilou Is Everywhere

Riverhead. Jul. 2019. 288p. ISBN 9780525535249. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780525535263. F
Scraping by in rural Pennsylvania with older brothers Clinton and Virgil after their mother seemingly wanders off for good, 14-year-old Cindy Stoat is the classic outsider. And Jude Vanderjohn is the classic glamour-queen teen whose disappearance has the town in an uproar. Surprisingly, Jude had been involved with Virgil, who rushes over to care for Jude’s wealthy if burnt-out, alcoholic hippie-artiste mom, bringing Cindy along to help. One day, deeply in a daze, Bernadette mistakes Cindy for her lost daughter, though Jude is of mixed raced (which makes her black in Appalachia) and Cindy is white. Cindy plays along, both for Bernadette and for herself, but this is no Cinderella story. However much she needs love and a better live, Cindy carries her role uncomfortably, in the end learning that it’s one she just can’t play.
VERDICT Unexpectedly hard-edged, this engrossing story from first novelist Smith feels lived-in and real. In the end, what happens to both Jude and Cindy comes as a surprise, teaching us what we can and can’t escape and what it means to remake ourselves despite the past. [See Prepub Alert 1/23/19.]
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