Reviews for Sweetgirl

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Sixteen-year-old Percy is tired of her waiting-around, worried-sick life, the result of her drug-addicted mother's erratic behavior and frequent absences. One such absence is the catalyst for Percy's launching a search that results in her discovery, in a meth house, of a neglected baby who clearly needs medical care. Without a second thought, she spirits the baby away in the teeth of a blizzard, which results in a pursuit by the baby's mother's drug-dealing boyfriend and his henchmen, who will do anything to recover the baby, even murder. Set in a nicely realized far-northern Michigan and told in Percy's spirited first-person voice, this is an acute study of lives lived at the margins of society and the redemptive power of innocence as personified by the baby and, to a lesser extent, Percy herself, both of whom are called sweetgirl. Though it is more melancholy in tone, but with a strong-willed young female protagonist of its own, Sweetgirl may remind some readers of Charles Portis' True Grit; indeed, one of the principal characters is named Portis in an apparent homage. However, this fine novel stands on its own merits.--Cart, Michael Copyright 2015 Booklist

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A first-time novelist borrows well-worn tropes. Percy James is 16 years old and an orphan, basically. Her mother might not be dead, but she's not exactly around, either. Percy is, in fact, searching a meth dealer's house for the missing Carletta when she finds a baby named Jenna and, on impulse, snatches the infant from her crib. Will the neglected teen enlist the help of a responsible social worker in finding a more salubrious environment for both herself and Jenna? Oh, heavens no. She will, instead, take the cold, filth-covered foundling to the home of her mother's ex, a gruff-but-kindly alcoholic. Will the baby's mother and her meth-cooking boyfriend even notice the baby is gone, and will they care? Yes and yes! Drug-addled, gun-crazy rural high jinks ensue. One expects a narrative of this sort to unfold against an Appalachian settingor within the swampy confines of the Florida panhandle, maybe. That Mulhauser has, instead, situated the fictional Cutler County at the northernmost point of Michigan's Lower Peninsula is definitely the most original part of his novel. Percy, certainly, is an established type. She's wise beyond her years, committed to doing the right thing despiteor is it because of?the hardships she has endured. And, like every other character in this novel, she speaks with a folksy eloquence that requires strenuous suspension of disbelief. "While the particulars of a given calamity may be impossible to predict, while I could never say I expected to find a baby in the bedroom, chaos itself was always confirmation of the dread I carried certain in my bones." Only a reader who is willing to believe that any teenager has ever expressed such a thought is capable of appreciating this book. Maybe enjoy a Coen brothers double featureRaising Arizona and Fargoinstead. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

When plucky 16-year-old Percy James discovers that her feckless mother, Carletta, is missing from their shabby home in a decaying town at the northwest tip of Michigan's lower peninsula, she jumps in her pickup truck and sets off during a blizzard to look for Carletta at the drug den of Shelton Potter, a maker and dealer of methamphetamine. Carletta is not there, and Shelton and his girlfriend are conked out, but Percy finds a baby girl crying in a freezing-cold bedroom and impulsively grabs her, determined to get the baby to a hospital. Percy enlists the help of her mother's ex-boyfriend, Portis Dale, a gentlemanly alcoholic who greets her by saying, fondly, "Well, shit the bed." This event-filled debut novel then alternates between Percy's desperate attempts to elude a vengeful Shelton, and Shelton's own slow-witted ruminations as he mumbles around the snow-filled woods with his trusty Glock pistol. By the time Carletta shows up and the baby is succored, four men have died: by incineration, by a gun mistakenly fired, by suicide, and by running a snowmobile into a tree. To his credit, Mulhauser evocatively describes the bleak landscape and starkly degraded social mores of an isolated community after the tourists have departed. The novel's credibility suffers, however, from the far too clever and unlikely dialogue spoken by unsavory characters as they consume a prodigious amount of whiskey. A virtually illiterate "scumbag" mutters, "It's an academic point"; another character, who has never left the remote backwoods, refuses to become "one of those pieces of human installation art." Yet the novel succeeds as a coming-of-age story when Percy, having survived grisly violence and abysmal loss, experiences a realization about how to shape her future. (Feb.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.