With a dedication on the front cover to “any girl who has ever felt alone,” a reader can intuit a lot about this slim volume. That same reader would be spot-on to surmise that this isn’t a particularly upbeat read. Keeping it in mind, an appreciation for the tightness of Hendler’s writing encourages the reader to complete the first story, and possibly the next.
This collection of short stories focuses on four female characters and showcases each in one or more complex relationships. The setting skips from Los Angeles to England to New York’s Chinatown and allows a reader to observe the female subjects at various stages in life, from teenage years through parenthood.
We are first introduced to Laurel and Alexis, teenage girls of divorced and soon-to-be divorced parents, who skip school to hang out, snort drugs, and discuss their young sex lives. An elementary school girl named Hannah forms the backdrop for this piece as the subject of ridicule at her private French school. Laurel and Alexis can relate.
Hannah appears in the next short story as well, this time as a junior high school student confiding in her friend Becky. Hannah and Becky discuss parental problems, pregnancy woes, science homework, dieting, and smoke some weed under the bleachers. They do not wish to relate to their peers or their world.
This book is a series of seemingly difficult and unrelated events in the lives of these women and girls. Their support systems lie within the relationships they forge with chosen peers, never with their parents.
Each story stands alone but can also be seen as the author’s attempt to present our connectedness to one another, particularly if “we” are a group of women. The personalities of the characters are less important than the similarities with their own experience.
The Lost Girls is a challenging read. I enjoy Hendler’s attention to detail in her descriptions of environments and subjects’ actions. However, her characters are underdeveloped, and it is difficult to ferret out cohesiveness between stories.