Blot Lit Reviews: The Blue Girl by Laurie Foos
The Blue Girl, Laurie Foos
Coffee House Press, 2015
Reviewed by Kelsey Tabbert
In Laurie Foos’ mysterious and surreal novel, The Blue Girl, rumors float around a small lake town telling of a girl with blue skin who lives in the woods. The girl remains only a rumor until one day three mothers take their teenage daughters to the lake and the blue girl manifests in the water, drowning. While the others stand frozen, unable to make themselves take action, one daughter rises to the occasion and drags the blue girl struggling from the lake. From this day forward each character finds their life and sense of self altered, giving birth to an obsession.
“She began eating our secrets after the first time she tried to drown. It was not something we had expected she might do. We did not know where she had come from, what her name was, or why she was blue. We still don’t.”
The novel’s point of view alternates between three mother/daughter pairs—Irene and Audrey, Magda and Caroline, Libby and Rebecca. A stagnant kind of sadness drapes itself over these women in very realistic and relatable ways. Even the surreal aspects of Foos’ novel, like the blue girl herself, produce incredibly true and relatable emotions despite their lack of realism. This is perhaps because the blue girl is a tangible depiction of grief, something the characters can choose to feed or let go of. Irene, Magda, and Libby literally feed the blue girl by baking their secrets into moon pies for her, which ultimately distracts from the way their depression is consuming them. In this way, Foos creates a new and abstract way of viewing grief and depression.
“The girl climbs into the bed and opens her mouth wide, wider than I have ever seen any mouth open. Her lips and tongue are blue, and she smiles as I begin to feed her, slowly at first and then faster as she opens her mouth so wide that her jaw clicks.”
The Blue Girl is a novel steeped in a directly feminine kind of sorrow, focusing on mother/daughter relationships. The mothers seem to be stuck in two worlds, present and past, always preoccupied with how things used to be, their marriages, their children, even themselves. Foos adds an additional layer to the mourning of lost youth by having the perspective of the daughters. These young women are also mourning, despite their youth, feeling the silent suffering of their dysfunctional families like a heavy weight. Each character struggles with a grief that works hard to separate them, but that same grief blends the women together, revealing an understanding that could be had through communication.
“The inside of my eyelids look blue. It’s like she inhabits me. I shake my head against the pillow and quietly breathe, Get out, blue girl, get out of my head, but she won’t go, she can’t go. So now I never sleep.”
Part of what makes The Blue Girl such an emotionally driven experience is the elegant language and creative use of metaphor that Foos brings to the table. She conjures extremely intimate images of small town experience: the secrets, the gossip, the people hidden beneath layers and layers of performative normalcy. The Blue Girl is a novel that humanizes both mothers and daughters, recognizing the struggles of each and the cycles of sorrow that can emerge when understanding cannot be achieved.
I recommend Laurie Foos’ The Blue Girl as a novel that tells a familiar story of grief in a unique way through an incredibly genuine set of female voices.