I somehow missed the nightmare Turpin case when it broke, but I’ve followed it ever since I learned about it (my God. Those poor kids). So when I learned about Girl A by Abigail Dean (Viking, 2021), a novel that seemed like a fictionalized account of the Turpin story, set in Great Britain, it went onto my list. It took for-ev-er for this to actually be in at the library, however; seems as though everyone in my town is just as horrified by that story as I am.
Girl A is Alexandra, or Lex, the eldest daughter and second eldest child of the Gracie family, where eight children were discovered, chained and emaciated, living in unbelievable filth. She’s the one who escaped, who dropped from a second-story window and broke her leg in the process, but who saved her other siblings. Her father poisoned himself before the police showed up, and Mom went to prison; now, at the beginning of the story, Lex is an adult, a lawyer, traveling back to England from New York City, to deal with her mother’s death.
The story jumps back and forth in time, from what happened leading up to the dramatic rescue of the Gracie children, to how growing up in such terrible conditions affected the children as adults. Some have fared better than others; no one has made it out unscathed.
This is a hard book to describe. None of the adult Gracie children are particularly likeable; some of them are a bit frightening in their ability to manipulate. Several are just tragic. It’s hard to get a full read on Lex, since she’s so damaged and deals with that damage by drinking a lot. A revelation later on in the book had me questioning pretty much everything about her, and the murky conclusion didn’t help matters at all.
I enjoyed the storytelling of this novel, but I wish there had been more concrete conclusions, and that it had felt more solid as a whole. If you’ve read this, I’d love to hear your thoughts.