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The Big Girls by Susanna Moore

The Big Girls

by Susanna Moore

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The Big Girls is a haunting dark tale told in four voices. Inside Sloatsburg women's prison, psychiatrist Dr. Louise Forrest is treating Helen, an inmate serving a life term for killing her children. The sessions gradually reveal Helen's terrifying past as the doctor searches for the key to her psychosis but will either of them survive these harrowing sessions?
This is a fabulous disturbing read about the tragic lives of women in prison. ( )
  bhowell | Oct 9, 2010 |
Susanna Moore uses four voices/viewpoints to deliver the strong medicine of "The Big Girls": Helen has been incarcerated after being convicted of a ghastly crime; Louise, her prison psychiatrist; Captain Bradshaw, a prison guard; and Angie, a celebrated young actress in Hollywood. We follow Helen's and Louise's progress as they hack through the difficult - nay, torturous - thicket of Helen's life. Helping Helen find the truth behind her delusions takes a heavy toll on Louise, as Helen's celebrated case brings intense focus, welcome and unwelcome, on the two protaganists.

This book reminds us of the sickeningly common pattern of physical and sexual abuse of girls and women. With some, like Helen, it results in frightful hallucinations, a splintered personality, and a desperate, psychotic urge to protect her own children. Louise, Angie, and the guard, Ike Bradshaw all are drawn up in the powerful struggle. Even Louise's little boy is affected.

The characterizations are deep and fully realized here - no cardboard cutouts, no stereotypes. Ike, the most important male character, stands as a well-rounded, wounded person, grounded, and very considerate of Louise's feelings. He's even fairly benign toward the inmates, including the difficult ones. Ms. Moore's main success rests in her effective handling of this crippling emotional issue. This is a thought-provoking, sensitive read, and I recommend it for its deep dive into the minds and hearts of its four players. ( )
  LukeS | Mar 11, 2010 |
THE BIG GIRLS doesn't grab you so much as seduce you into reading it. The story is about four people whose lives overlap in odd and interesting ways. It tackles issues like family, fortune (or the lack of it), coincidence and fate.

The book starts off from the point of view of Dr. Louise Forrest, the new chief of psychiatry at a women's prison. The narrative then switches to Helen, a schizophrenic inmate who's committed a crime so heinous, she's kept apart from the other prisoners at first. Helen is obsessed with contacting Angie, an ambitious Hollywood actress, who happens to be dating Dr. Forrest's ex-husband. Dr. Forrest eventually hooks up with Ike Bradshaw, a no-nonsense prison guard.

The story focuses primarily on Dr. Forrest and Helen, at first. The other two main characters' perspectives get included in time. Together, the narratives combine to create a compelling and ambitious overall story – one that explores each character's demons and the gritty realities of prison life.

For more, read: http://modern-american-fiction.suite101.com/article.cfm/review_the_big_girls ( )
  infogirl2k | Oct 14, 2009 |
I enjoyed this sparsely written novel about a prision psychiatrist and her patient, Helen. The book jumps right into the story; not a lot of description or background....just short sections narrated by various characters, mostly Dr. Forrest and Helen. As you read their words, you get to know them, much the way to get to know people in real life through conversation. The book explores relationships in terms of getting close to the wrong people, or getting close in the wrong way. The lives of the prisoners and of the prison staff are not that different in the way that relationships can enrich our lives, or have disastrous consequences. ( )
  LynnB | Aug 27, 2008 |
Reviewed in Mystery Scene.
  bfister | Dec 28, 2007 |
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"At the heart of this novel is a crime of unfathomable horror and its effect on several profoundly different lives, each altered by a surprising connection to the others." "We hear four brilliantly realized voices: Helen, an inmate at Sloatsburg women's prison serving a life sentence for the murder of her children; trapped within the maze of her own tortured mind, she is the subject of damning national attention. Dr. Louise Forrest, the recently divorced mother of an eight-year-old boy - the new chief of psychiatry at Sloatsburg. Angie, an ambitious Hollywood starlet, intent on nothing but fame. And Ike Bradshaw, a sardonic corrections officer, formerly a New York City narcotics detective." "As the alternating narratives unfold, we begin to wonder why Dr. Forrest has chosen Sloatsburg over the Park Avenue practice for which she was trained. And the origin of Helen's psychosis is revealed - both its shocking depths and its disturbingly convincing rationale - as well as why she is desperate to make herself known to the young actress Angie." "The Big Girls is a novel about the anarchy of families, the sometimes destructive power of the maternal instinct, the vitality and evil of communities, and the cult of celebrity."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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