Its midwinter in Cutler county, Michigan, snow is piling up and sixteen-year-old Percy is concerned she hasn’t seen her mother for nine days. After a tip-off that she has been seen in a drug dealer’s house Percy enters the house to find two adults passed out on the floor, but neither is her mother.
Also in the house, she finds a dead dog and a neglected baby.
“I could see the baby was shrieking, but its cries were buried by the wind. The snow blew in sideways, edged across the floor, and dusted the baby’s cheeks with frost”.
Percy carefully picks up baby Jenna from her bassinet as well as a backpack with clothes, toys and formula and creeps out of the house. Trudging through the snow, she reaches Portis’s cottage and seeks his help to get the baby to hospital.
Meanwhile, Shelton Potter wakes up and after discovering the baby has disappeared, sets out with some associates, on a snowmobile, to search for Jenna.
Sweetgirl is a beautifully written story which hooked me from the first chapter. Percy is a survivor, forced to leave school to work as her mother is frequently high on drugs. Despite this, she has a caring nature and knows Portis, who nearly became her stepfather, also shares her compassion for humanity, and will support her to get the baby to medical care.
The bleak winter conditions create an atmosphere of tension and suspense as Percy endeavours to get help for the baby.
The reader is drawn into the story by the author writing alternate chapters from Shelton’s and Percy’s point of view, and there are wonderful description passages throughout, such as: “I set the papoose down just inside the front , sliding doors of the ER entrance. I hit the emergency call button took one step away from Jenna, and then another. I walked backward until I finally turned and ran into the cluster of vehicles toward the front of the lot”.
Sweetgirl would be enjoyed by anyone from teenagers upwards.
Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh
by Travis Mulhauser
Published by Fourth Estate