First off, you MUST read the audiobook version of this, put that print edition down, the audio is where it’s at!
West McCray is a public-radio type audio personality who specializes in stories about small nobody-towns in America. One day at a gas station, he learns about a local girl who has gone missing. Sadie Hunter was grieving the recent and brutal murder of her sister Mattie when she disappeared. Local police believe it to be a simple case of a runaway not worth pursuing, but May Beth, Sadie’s adoptive grandmother, is convinced she is out there somewhere and needs to be found.
Thus, McCray’s new serialized podcast The Girls launches, digging into the background of Sadie’s family, Mattie’s murder, and his pursuit of her fate.
I’m not the first Cannonballer to review this book and I won’t be the last, because this book has staying power – at least as long as people are obsessed with Serial-type podcasting. Summers flips us back and forth between two narratives: McCray’s podcast, presented to us mostly episodically (sometimes she splits singular episodes into two chapters for dramatic benefit) – and Sadie’s own narrative. And so you see why this needs to be read on audio! Macmillan Audio dug in and went full-cast for this one, with music and audio production to honor the podcast format of McCray’s story. But Sadie’s side of the story is also heightened in the audio format: Sadie stutters, and Rebecca Soler does a wonderful job conveying Sadie’s emotional narrative as well as her vocalizations.
This was my first read of Courtney Summers! She has a knack for clever and effective turns of phrase. She also builds the suspense very well – when you get the audio of this, plan to find nine hours of listening time when no one will bother you – you won’t want to stop listening.
The audio is almost perfect – I will say a couple of the actors were less than great. Maybe this was an expense thing? (Get the heavies for the leads and bring in some interns for the lesser parts?) Or maybe not everyone got the direction they needed? Even then, it’s just a blip. Dan Bittner has the perfect NPR tone for the podcaster. And they made the wise choice of including the “full cast” element in Sadie’s narrative too, not just the podcast itself. That gives it immediacy vital to the narrative.
A must listen!
(CW for alluded sexual abuse)