The Girl Who Slept With God
By Val Brelinski
Author website: http://valbrelinski.com/
An entrancing debut about two sisters exiled by their parents when the eldest becomes pregnant
Set in Arco, Idaho, in 1970, Val Brelinski’s powerfully affecting first novel tells the story of three sisters: young Frances, gregarious and strong-willed Jory, and moral-minded Grace. Their father, Oren, is a respected member of the community and science professor at the local college. Yet their mother’s depression and Grace’s religious fervor threaten the seemingly perfect family, whose world is upended when Grace returns from a missionary trip to Mexico and discovers she’s pregnant with—she believes—the child of God.
Distraught, Oren sends Jory and Grace to an isolated home at the edge of the town. There, they prepare for the much-awaited arrival of the baby while building a makeshift family that includes an elderly eccentric neighbor and a tattooed social outcast who drives an ice cream truck.
The Girl Who Slept with God is a literary achievement about a family’s desperate need for truth, love, purity, and redemption.
The Girl Who Slept with God is a slightly odd and emotionally charged novel. The beginning section for me was somewhat hard for me to connect with. I did not care for the characters and for the first fourth of the book I was not sure I would finish it. Then somehow, somewhere it snuck up on me and I was hooked. I had to find out what was going to happen to Jory, Grace, Grip and Hilda. The characters began to take shape and the story began to flow and ebb and crash page after page. What started out as a tale of an odd family with habits and beliefs I could not relate to, turned into a moving story about sisters, growing up in the 70s, love, pain and change.
Val Brelinski’s writing style for me seemed to build in intensity and emotion. Detailed and vivid, her words were able to paint colorful pictures. The scene where Jory accidentally takes acid is fun and scary at the same time. So many things rattled my memories of growing up during this time period. And yet, so many things were so foreign to me. The Quanbeck family is a fundamentalist Christian family that eschews dancing, music, television and for some reason only eats lentils. The mother is addicted to prescription anxiety medicine which seems against what they believe, but the father seems to believe it is the only way to go. The oldest daughter Grace is a religious fanatic and even reprimands her father. Jory is a bit of an oddity in the family and I liked her for the most part.
Grace comes home from a mission trip pregnant and professing it is God who impregnated her. Their father for some reason thinks it is a good idea to take Grace and Jory to live alone in a house in the country. The only person around is Hilda, an elderly neighbor who once owned the house. This was pretty weird for me. And how in the heck did Grip find them there. Oh Grip is the much older ice cream truck driver. Things happen fast and furious once the girls are in the house and some were a bit out there. While I could relate to some of the happenings having been a child at the time of this book. The saving grace for the book is truly the author’s wonderful writing style, her colorful descriptions and fast paced action.
This book is a mix of so many different emotions, do much is going on. If this was a book for college lit I am sure I would have found tons of symbolism and double meaning. The Girl Who Slept with God is an emotional roller coaster, crash tracked and painful. The sadness is overwhelming at times. I am not really sure who I would recommend this to as it can encompass a wide variety of audiences while at the same time not very many. It is a painful, angst driven, coming of age tale. It is emotional and yet stayed at the same time. Definitely one of a kind I think.