Everything about fifteen-year-old Cat’s new town in rural Michigan is lonely and off-kilter until she meets her neighbor, the manic, beautiful, pill-popping Marlena. Cat is quickly drawn into Marlena’s orbit and as she catalogues a litany of firsts―first drink, first cigarette, first kiss, first pill―Marlena’s habits harden and calcify.
Within the year, Marlena is dead, drowned in six inches of icy water in the woods nearby. Now, decades later, when a ghost from that pivotal year surfaces unexpectedly, Cat must try again to move on, even as the memory of Marlena calls her back.
Told in a haunting dialogue between past and present, Marlena is an unforgettable story of the friendships that shape us beyond reason and the ways it might be possible to pull oneself back from the brink.
A Debut Calls a Ferrante-Style Female Friendship to the Fore
The New York Times Book Review – April 18, 2017 (Excerpt)
At the center of Julie Buntin’s debut novel is the kind of coming-of-age friendship that goes beyond camaraderie, into a deeper bond that forges identity; it’s friendship as a creative act, a collaborative work of imagination, and what happens when that collaboration — terribly, inevitably — falls apart.
The story of this particular friendship is told retrospectively by Cat, now 30-something in Brooklyn, drawn back to her youth in rural northern Michigan, where she found Marlena and her life, effectively, began. We know from the outset that within a year of their meeting, Marlena will drown. What we discover is just how haunted it will leave Cat, how full of questions. Read more…