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Sweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser


by Travis Mulhauser

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
A surehanded debut with a lean, quickly moving plot, good characters and an effective setting. The only thing that took me out of the experience was the dialogue, fabulous and pithy, but possibly a little more polished than you would actually hear coming out of the mouths of methheads, old Michigander alcoholics and a careworn but spunky teen dropout. It was like a book (a pretty good one, really) peopled entirely by Boyd Crowders. ( )
  jjaylynny | Nov 12, 2016 |
This is pretty good, especially for a debut, and if I'd been feeling slightly more generous I would have bumped it up to four. Percy is a great character with a well-realized voice, and the story -- which revolves around a baby that Percy kidnaps or rescues (depending on your perspective) from a negligent mother -- is simple but compelling. But I don't think that the mix of third-person and first-person works (if Dickens can't sell me on it in Bleak House, I'm not going to buy it here, but that may be a personal issue) and I thought the ending was a bit of a mess. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
A promising debut novel. If one wants a "genre" classifications, I'd call this "grit lit plus chick lit" but it's so much more. Library book. ( )
  seeword | Aug 29, 2016 |

Sweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser is a highly recommended debut novel of suspense set during a blizzard in Northern Michigan. Read this one with a blanket and a warm beverage nearby.

Percy James, 16, drives off to try and find her meth addicted mother, Carletta, just as a blizzard bears down on the northern Michigan woods. Percy checks out the cabin of known cooker and dealer Sheldon Potter. After having to abandon her truck a mile or so from the house, Percy sets off on foot. When she arrives she doesn't find Carletta; instead she sees Sheldon passed out with his girlfriend in the living room. Thinking her mother might still be there in another room, Percy sneaks inside and heads upstairs. What she finds is a dead dog in one room and a baby in the other. In the baby's room the crib, with the name Jenna written on it, is by an open window where the cold and snow are rushing inside.

Deciding that someone needs to save baby Jenna, who Percy nicknames Sweetgirl, Percy grabs the baby and the bag nearby. She's going to go get this baby to safety while still trying to find her mother. Percy heads on foot carrying Jenna to the cabin of Portis Dale, an ex-boyfriend to her mother and the closest thing to a father that Percy has ever had. She and Portis then take off, battling the elements and trying to hide from the criminal thugs Sheldon has sent out to look for the baby after he woke up and found her gone. You read that right. After Sheldon comes to and realizes the baby is gone, he tries to find thugs beholden to his uncle to help him look for her before he takes off in a snowmobile to find her too.

Sheldon Potter is a foolish man and his constant drug usage is addling his thinking. Portis is a hard drinking, but caring, philosopher. Percy is a sixteen-year-old who is wise beyond her years and a scrappy fighter. She is a protagonist that you will be cheering for as she tries to overcome the elements and other forces against her while saving little Jenna. Having the blizzard bearing down on them and bad guys after them creates more obstacles, problems, and difficulties getting to the proper authorities or finding some help.

Chapters alternate between Percy and Sheldon, creating a tension as you follow what is happening. I'm going to have to admit that there were a few things that seemed a bit too pat, like Sheldon's tenaciousness and ability to get around even as he constantly is getting a buzz from something. The biggest stretch of credulity is Percy's inability to get help in this day and age. Sure, most of us would use our cell phones and call for help but Carletta (conveniently) sold Percy's and Portis, naturally, doesn't have one.

The writing is quite good, which really elevates the plot above a cliche'. The setting also does this as one doesn't usually think of meth cooking going on in the woods of northern Michigan. But Percy, however, is the real winner here. She is a great character and this acts as a thriller, as well as a coming-of-age novel. I liked the ending very much and hope to read more from Millhauser in the future.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of HarperCollins for review purposes.

http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/2016/01/sweetgirl.html ( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
Somethings did not add up. Such as the length of the hikes the protagonist took to 1) get from the crack-farm to her mother's ex-boy friend home. She stated it was 1/2 mile but the trek was endless. 2) the trek from ex-boyfriends house to his truck which was parked away from his house. They hiked for hours! Noted there was snow and it was Michigan and dead winter. 3) How does a crack head mother not freeze in a blizzard also wandering around lost in a druged haze. 4) why not hop on the abandoned snow mobile? I know it's just me but stuff like that bugs the liver lips out of me.

5) everyone's trucks worked and operated in the snow including the crack mom's bonnieville! !!!!! But the ex boyfriend manages to drive off the road and get stuck.

I read this quickly and the writing is compelling, interesting and fast paced. I cared about the characters and envisioned the cast of Justified as I raced through the book. I was particularly impressed with the ex's vocabulary though it was never explained in a back story. Which actually makes the story better.

A very good first book. ( )
  Alphawoman | Mar 20, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062400827, Hardcover)

With the heart, daring, and evocative atmosphere of Winter’s Bone and True Grit, and driven by the raw, whip-smart voice of Percy James, a blistering debut about a fearless sixteen-year old girl whose search for her missing mother leads to an unexpected discovery, and a life or death struggle in the harsh frozen landscape of the Upper Midwest.

As a blizzard bears down, Percy James sets off to find her troubled mother, Carletta. For years, Percy has had to take care of herself and Mama—a woman who’s been unraveling for as long as her daughter can remember. Fearing Carletta is strung out on meth and that she won’t survive the storm, Percy heads for Shelton Potter’s cabin, deep in the woods of Northern Michigan. A two-bit criminal, as incompetent as he his violent, Shelton has been smoking his own cook and grieving the death of his beloved Labrador, Old Bo.

But when Percy arrives, there is no sign of Carletta. Searching the house, she finds Shelton and his girlfriend drugged into oblivion—and a crying baby girl left alone in a freezing room upstairs. From the moment the baby wraps a tiny hand around her finger, Percy knows she must save her—a split-second decision that is the beginning of a dangerous odyssey in which she must battle the elements and evade Shelton and a small band of desperate criminals, hell-bent on getting that baby back.

Knowing she and the child cannot make it alone, Percy seeks help from Carletta’s ex, Portis Dale, who is the closest thing she’s ever had to a father. As the storm breaks and violence erupts, Percy will be forced to confront the haunting nature of her mother’s affliction and finds her own fate tied more and more inextricably to the baby she is determined to save.

Filled with the sweeping sense of cultural and geographic isolation of its setting—the hills of fictional Cutler County in northern Michigan—and told in Percy’s unflinching style, Sweetgirl is an affecting exploration of courage, sacrifice, and the ties that bind—a taut and darkly humorous tour-de-force that is horrifying, tender, and hopeful.

(retrieved from Amazon Sat, 29 Aug 2015 16:57:53 -0400)

Braving a northern Michigan blizzard to search for her missing meth-addicted mother, Percy James stops by the cabin of two drug addicts and flees with their endangered baby, triggering a dangerous race from the elements and a band of desperate criminals.… (more)

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