Sarah Elaine Smith - Marilou is Everywhere - Book review by Marc Louis-Boyard for Slow Culture

BOOK REVIEW #8 – Sarah Elaine Smith, Marilou is Everywhere (Penguin Random House)

Sarah Elaine Smith’s Marilou is Everywhere was published a few months ago, and is now getting a due and essential reissue.

The plot of the book is not revolutionary itself, but the reader’s experience is the true and spectacular value delivered by the author.

Consumed by the longing for a different life, a teenager flees her family and carefully slips into another — replacing a girl whose own sudden disappearance still haunts the town.

– Excerpt from the press release.

Do not expect a dark and depressing ride. Marilou is Everywhere is an excellent reminder of the human condition, and of the humans’ shared desires. This piece is the perfect balance between Louisa Luna’s Brave New Girl and Juliet Escoria’s Juliet The Maniac.

Three keywords to describe the book: growth, adventure, consciousness.

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Sarah Elaine Smith, Marilou is Everywhere (Penguin Random House): our review.

Family affair(s)

The notion of family is at Marilou is Everywhere‘s core. This very notion is infiltrated, told, exposed, stretched, decomposed. Sarah Elaine Smith takes the reader to a degree of closeness and intimacy allowing pattern recognition and discovery at the same time. Marilou is Everywhere brings to the surface behaviors we all have known and suspected, and behaviors still unnoticed. 

The place of self in a family, augmented with social and peer pressure, is told without heavy pessimism or judgement. Disappointment, nonsense and misunderstandings are experienced along warmth, delicate complicity and mutual aid.

I guess he thought babies just canceled everything out, even suspicion and bad acts. I went back to sleep, and when I woke up, all the stuff was cleared out. My brother was gone.

– Excerpt from Marilou is Everywhere

Marilou is Everywhere by Sarah Elaine Smith - book cover and review
Stella, the Slow Culture cat, enjoying 'Marilou is Everywhere' maybe a bit too much.

The good within us

The scenes and characters comprising Marilou is Everywhere are essentially naturalistic. Naturalistic, but certainly not sordid. Between physical and moral violence, loss of innocence and forgiveness, Sarah Elaine Smith provides a soft but engaged view on the characters and their morals. Do not expect the writer to lecture the world, or to try teach it a lesson: observation, comprehension and a fair grasp on the characters’ realities punctuate the book.

Breathtakingly beautiful and real, Marilou is Everywhere succeeds in the field of character richness without orienting the honest and lenient reader. 

“Do you forgive her?” they asked Jude.

(…)

I would have liked to go to jail. 

– Excerpt from Marilou is Everywhere

The weight of being

Guilt, rural challenges and desire to escape are combined in a coherent and enlighting way. All the characters have their share of difficulties and submission, but the message of the book is not a limiting one.

The idea is crystal clear: people do what they can. People do with what life offered them.

Marilou is Everywhere excels in giving hope, strength, and power. 

I loved the world, too, in a way so fierce I assumed no one could imagine. And I love it still. It was, quite simply, how I survived.

– Excerpt from Marilou is Everywhere

Sarah Elaine Smith, Marilou is Everywhere (Penguin Random House)

Out on March 26 2020.

Consumed by the longing for a different life, a teenager flees her family and carefully slips into another — replacing a girl whose own sudden disappearance still haunts the town.

Fourteen-year-old Cindy and her two older brothers live in rural Pennsylvania, in a house with occasional electricity, two fierce dogs, one book, and a mother who comes and goes for months at a time. Deprived of adult supervision, the siblings rely on one another for nourishment of all kinds. As Cindy’s brothers take on new responsibilities for her care, the shadow of danger looms larger and the status quo no longer seems tolerable.

About Sarah Elaine Smith

Sarah Elaine Smith was born and raised in Greene County, Pennsylvania. She has studied at the Michener Center for Writers, UT-Austin (MFA, poetry); the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (MFA, fiction); and Carnegie Mellon University (BA, English and Creative Writing). She has worked as a metadata analyst (signed an NDA & shall say no more!), a college teacher, a proofreader/copyeditor, design consultant, waitress, and ghostwriter. Her work has received support from the MacDowell Colony, the Rona Jaffe Wallace Foundation, and the Keene Prize for Literature, among other generous entities.

Visit Sarah’s website.

About Penguin Random House:

Penguin Random House is the international home to nearly 250 editorially and creatively independent publishing imprints. Together, our mission is to foster a universal passion for reading by partnering with authors to help create stories and communicate ideas that inform, entertain, and inspire, and to connect them with readers everywhere.

– Penguin Random House

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Written by Marc Louis-Boyard for Slow Culture.

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