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ARC: Thirty Girls by Susan Minot

Thirty Girls
Susan Minot
Knopf February 11, 2014
Pages 352
ISBN13: 9780307266385
A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review
Recommendation: 3/5
Reviewer: Melinda

From Goodreads:
Esther is a Ugandan teenager abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army and forced to witness and commit unspeakable atrocities, who is struggling to survive, to escape, and to find a way to live with what she has seen and done. Jane is an American journalist who has traveled to Africa, hoping to give a voice to children like Esther and to find her center after a series of failed relationships. In unflinching prose, Minot interweaves their stories, giving us razor-sharp portraits of two extraordinary young women confronting displacement, heartbreak, and the struggle to wrest meaning from events that test them both in unimaginable ways.


“Something stretches beyond you, drawing you along, and as you move forward in a dark place you can barely make out shapes and your faces feels invisible. No one sees you anymore. You don’t think it, but you have the odd feeling: Maybe this will lead me home.” 

The book focuses on two central characters. Jane Wood an American journalist is in Uganda to do a story on the abductions and the survivors of the kidnappings by Kony’s LRA, and Esther Akello, a surviving kidnapped girl of the LRA. The narrative alternates between Jane and Esther’s story’s. 

Minot’s adeptness with the narrative is well done. Her descriptions of the LRA and the despicable acts committed are appalling and emotional. Learning of what the girls endured is halting and moving. Affecting subject matter approached with deference by Minot. 

Esther’s character is well developed. Her story is gripping and leaves the reader gasping as well as exhausted. Esther Akello is the heart and soul of the story and remains in your thoughts. 

Where the story fails for me is the character of Jane Wood. After learning more about Jane my hopes for this being a must read is quickly extinguished. Jane is lost, she is on a quest to try to find herself. Lacking self esteem and being extremely self absorbed you really find it difficult to like her, rather you find yourself tolerating her. She is a poor example of a woman, her thinking, her character and behavior, an illustration I loathe. Jane has a new ‘boy toy’ she has met in a matter of weeks and finds her every thought wrapped around Harry. I was disgusted by the lack of professionalism and basic human decency she demonstrated while embarking on this project. Hearing of the abuse and violence and Jane still drifts off with thoughts of Harry. Minot should have focused solely on Esther or altered Jane’s character to reflect a positive light. Bottom line Jane Wood is one confused woman. Her persona feels very out of place given the magnitude of the story. 

“Thoughts of Harry came in the day like reveries, then she would stop the thoughts. How could she be thinking so lightly of love, here in a place where people’s lips were cut off and girls were snatched out of their beds?”

If it wasn’t for the severely flawed Jane this book was have really made more of an impact for me but as it is with Jane’s poor demeanor, low self esteem and self absorption it scars the sensitive and compelling narrative, it feels like a story, a story with a character desensitized and narcissistic to carry empathy for young men and women enduring/endured the unimaginable and unthinkable. 

Good read but flawed in an unnecessary manner in my opinion. Judge for yourself and read Thirty Girls. 

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