My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Erika T Wurth‘s novel Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend is a dark, gritty look at the life of a young teenage girl who does not go gently into that good night. The daughter of a working class Native America, she fights back against a world that is determined to push her deeper into the box of poor, minority woman.
Here’s what good about the book: Margaritte’s story feels authentic. Wurth doesn’t take any easy outs with her main character. In truth, there are no real happy endings for anyone involved, and the ones who do sneak out with some hope do so because they just refuse to stop moving forward.
What makes the story so good is also what leads to one of the great ironies of the book. In many ways, Wurth has written the great Republican American dream. The story of a young woman who faces long odds and refuses to let anything – or anyone – keep her from moving forward. Not race, not class, and not gender. She refuses to be looked down upon, and pushes forward no matter what.
Yet Margaritte is forced to do all of that while living in a world in which people use drugs and drink without consequences (sometimes), sex is regular part of the teenage life (sometimes for love, sometimes for escape), and parents are sometimes the cause of strife and destruction.
Navigating that dichotomy is where Wurth’s voice is most authentic and strong. In those scenes and moments where the two worlds crash together, Margaritte explodes off the pages. (You can listen to Wurth on The Downtown Writers Jam Podcast series).
That isn’t to say that the book isn’t without its flaws. The pacing isn’t always smooth, and there are moments when the side narratives were a bit too diversionary. We would leave the story and enter her life, and I always wanted to get back to Margaritte. It was her voice and her story that drove the book.
Still, the voices of Margaritte (and Wurth) make getting over those humps worth the investment.