by Sheri Boggs
We like to think we have our fingers on the pulse of the next big local literary phenomenon, and quite frankly, we think A Girl in Parts is it.
Written by Jasmine Paul while she lived and worked in Hollywood, the novel tells the story of nine-year-old Dottie, who is being raised by her "bartending mother" and "bar-attending stepfather" in Martinsburg, West Virginia.
As the book opens in the early 1980s, Dottie has buckteeth, asthma, ear problems and she can't sleep. Even though she has a precocious baby brother to keep her company, Dottie is lonely and hates the ugly rural town, almost as much as she hates their ugly rural house, which she keeps hoping will burn to the ground so she can move to Cleveland and live with her dad. Instead, the family up and moves to Eastern Washington, where, on the cusp of puberty, Dottie's only hope of survival lies in her keen observations, quick intelligence and gravelly sense of humor.
Told in 97 short "parts," the book follows Dottie through the choppy waters of junior high school, the cold humiliation of poverty, the searing angst of crushes both requited and not, the easy camaraderie of kids who smoke and drink and, finally, the joy of becoming a star basketball player.
Paul, who now lives in Spokane (with her dog, Floyd), reads from the book on Thursday, Oct. 17, at Auntie's. With traces of both Dorothy Allison and Judy Blume, she writes with the hilarious and poignant honesty of a teenager's diary. Unflinching and utterly without self-pity, Dottie's hardscrabble life is made all the more compelling by her daily fight with her own tough circumstances.