That Green Eyed Girl by Julie Owen Moylan – Book review

Oh my heart! That Green Eyed Girl certainly knows how to pack an emotional punch! I was fully taken in by this visceral yet elegant story that looks at forbidden love, loneliness, secrets, betrayals and lies. Yes, quite the heady, enticing mix. All of these elements blend so wonderfully; it’s been a while since a book has had such an impact on me.

Opening sentence: The day the box arrived, my mother thought she was Jesus.

A dual narrative

Set in New York and told in a dual timeline format, we meet 16-year old Ava Winters in 1975 and Dovie Carmichael in 1955. When a box arrives at Ava’s apartment, she uncovers pictures and letters meant for someone called Gillian from someone called Dovie. She decides to track Gillian down and return the belongings.

In our 1955 narrative, we learn the story of the box. Dovie and Gillian love each other but 1950s American society forbids lesbian relationships. Women are literally sent to asylums. So they have to keep their relationship a secret, the smallest thing could destroy them, such as the wrong person finding out…

‘Oh, Dovie! How could you be so stupid? You know what will happen to us if people find out?’

What if you have no safe space

In both stories the impactful theme of what’s it’s like when your safe space is taken from you is explored. Ava’s struggle with her parents who aren’t there for her, for different reasons, leave us with this girl, on the cusp of womanhood, who has no direction and needs a big hug, really. Her quest to find Gillian gives her direction when she has none and means she play a part in giving hope to someone else.

I felt as though I understood how desperate she was to be loved.

All the women in this book felt so real, complex and also broke my heart. They were all so different yet sadly had loneliness in common. Despite its themes, I didn’t leave this book feeling sad. Emotionally wrought yes and there were definitely tears at some points but it was so beautifully written that you are totally enraptured.

The more I think about That Green Eyed Girl, the more I’m in awe of the subtleties in each story and how they interwove and reflect each other. This is a compassionate yet heartbreaking, nuanced read. It also happens to be Julie Owen Moylan’s debut book and it’s mightily impressive – you must add it to your TBR!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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