Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle

Cindy: Do you need a good book for your mother/daughter book club? How about this one? “Four women traveling on a midnight car journey: one of them dead, one of them dying, one of them driving, and one of them just starting out.” Greyhound of a Girl (Amulet 2012) is my favorite kind of book…an intergenerational story that makes you laugh and cry. Mary O’Hara is twelve, soon to be a teenager, and her best friend has moved 7 stupid kilometers away to another part of Dublin and her older brothers are useless as companions. They are “boring and weird…they laughed a lot and never explained why.” Mary and her mother Scarlett make a daily visit to the horrid hospital to visit Granny, who is dying, but who smiles big when her daughter and granddaughter show up.

Things get more complicated when an old woman approaches Mary in the neighborhood. When Mary tells her mother about her, she is startled by the name and asks to meet this new “neighbor.” Yes, Tansey is Mary’s great-grandmother…and she needs Mary’s help to deliver a message to her dying daughter. Tansey died of the flu at the age of 25, leaving a young daughter behind, and she has never passed on completely. Now she has a chance to be a mother and to help her scared daughter to leave this life behind. What follows is a funny and moving story of how they accomplish that.

Doyle is a master of dialogue and these characters walked into my heart with their cheekiness and their pet phrases, sure. The bond between mothers and daughters runs strong, and is not always smooth, but Mary is watching and learning…and the love and connection between generations will shape her and her future relationships. I’d like to hang with her and watch. These four women make me ache to take my own road trip with them, I’m not ready to leave them behind. And, what’s not to love about a ghost who can provide ice cream cones in the middle of the night. It was grand.

Lynn:  This is a lovely story and one that begs to be read slowly so that the reader can float along with the rhythm of the dialog.  This is one of those stories where not a whole lot happens – no kidnappings, battles or car chases.  Rather it is reflective and gentle, with a timeless theme and pacing.  Life and death and family stories  – the sort that are told again and again.  I appreciate this book and understand the device of telling and retelling as family stories are told and retold but I’ll be honest – it was a bit too slow for me and I found myself feeling a bit impatient with the third repetition of Emer’s story.  But that is my fault and not the book’s as I readily admit that I have the reading taste of a 12-year-old boy.  But my interest picked up when the 4-generation road trip began and from then on I was firmly hooked right through to the sweet and reassuring ending.  As Cindy says – this would be an ideal book for a mother-daughter book club!  Twelve-year-old Mary’s thrill at realizing not only that she was part of this circle but that she too was a woman now is not to be missed.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

6 Comments on "Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle"

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  1. andykaiser@gmail.com' Andy Kaiser says:

    I know this may not be the perfect place to leave this, but your intro caught my eye: “Do you need a good book for your mother/daughter book club?”

    I’m close to that: I need good books for a daddy/daughter club! I read to my daughter at night, and I’d love your thoughts on good books for a seven-year-old girl who wants adventure stories and mysteries.

    The problem I’m running into is that many of the popular ones are geared for boys (How to Train Your Dragon is an embarrassing example – the movie was far more girl-friendly), and believe me, when a book has few or no girls, I hear about it quickly!

    If this post doesn’t belong here, please delete, and no offense will be taken, though please also consider this a request for a future topic!

    Thanks,

    Andy

    • Thanks Andy – you have a very good point – we need to do more about books for our younger female readers! The focus group is all male and I lean toward their interests. I’m working on some suggestions right now and will definitely keep your reminder in mind as we go forward into the fall books. – Lynn

  2. andykaiser@gmail.com' Andy Kaiser says:

    Thanks, Lynn, I appreciate that!

    For the record, The Magic Tree House series is great, though my daughter is getting a little old for it. When I was young, the Cam Jansen series was also great, but I wonder if it might be dated now. I’d love for her to have strong, intelligent girl role-models, outside of the Sweet Valley and American Girl realms – books that appeal to boys and girls, where the girls are just as valuable (or more) to the story as the boys.

    …here’s hoping for more ideas. Thanks again!

  3. info@cadencewinery.com' Gaye McNutt says:

    Hi Andy,

    Here are some ideas for read alouds, some of them transitioning into your daughter reading for herself.

    The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley
    The Theodosia series by R.L. LaFevers
    The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall
    The Unicorn Chronicles by Bruce Coville
    Pinky Pye/Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes

    Happy Reading!

  4. Thank you, Gaye! I need to put some more thought into this for Andy too.–Cindy

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