Rating: ★★★★☆ 

The Only Girl in the Car, by Kathy Dobie.  The Dial Press (2003), 240 pages.

This book has much in common with the memoir Lucky. Both authors describe a rape in excruciating detail, while at the same time writing about their families and their years growing up with great humor and affection. In addition, Dobie has one of the most authentic voices I have read in a long time. Her descriptions of her childhood thoughts and feelings were so perfectly those of a child, I was continually recalling long-forgotten details of my own childhood—the snap of cold Silly Putty when I pulled it apart, the hiding place behind the rhododendrons, the smell of the monkeybars after a rain.

Those of you who read and enjoy this book, and particularly those of you with daughters, would probably also like the movie 13. It is a true story, written by the mother and daughter who lived it—a fascinating, terrifying account of what it can be like these days as an adolescent girl, and as a mother trying to raise one.

It took me three years to get used to going to St. Rita’s Grammer School. I couldn’t understand the scratchy uniforms we all had to wear, the way my knees were always cold (why were the adults letting us go bare-legged in winter?) the black-winged nuns, the desks lined up like soldiers, the closed door of the classroom, which became a cell imprisoning me with a group of strange children. Where were my brothers? Why were they kept in separate classrooms, away from me and from each other? And where, above all, was Cindy, whom I slept with every night and woke with every morning, so in tune with each other that we never had to discuss whether we were waking up as rabbits or horses, nuzzling each other with our cold rabbit noses or galloping around the bedroom unable to get out because, as everyone knows, horses can’t turn door handles?

This review first appeared in February 2004
By Cindy Blackett