Silver Girl

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UPC: 9781944700515
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Author: Leslie Pietrzyk
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: The Unnamed Press (February 27, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 194470051X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1944700515
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches

A young woman, desperate to escape the unspoken secrets of her impoverished Midwestern family, bluffs her way into college, arriving at the prestigious "school by the lake" in Chicago where she meets Jess, charismatic and rich and needy, and the two quickly form an insular, competitive friendship.

The narrator immerses herself in Jess's world, collecting her new friend's hand-me-downs, accompanying her to family dinners and frat parties. As guilt builds for the sister she has left behind, the narrator is drawn into Jess's apparently effortless existence, with a perfect Yuppie family living nearby, and a doting fiancee.

Meanwhile the Tylenol Killer -- a local psychopath rumored to be stuffing cyanide into pills sold at the drugstore -- is at first just terrifying gossip on campus. But the death of one of his victims triggers a surprising chain of events with major repercussions for the lives of both young women. Suddenly the lifestyle the narrator has come to share with Jess vanishes. As her attempts to restore order and control become increasingly desperate, their fragile friendship is exposed; and both young women must confront the realities of an adulthood neither one expected.

Silver Girl is an intimate coming-of-age account of the nuances of female friendship, of obsession and longing, greed and desire. Leslie Pietrzyk delves into the ways class and money dictate one's sense of self, and how relationships ultimately define who we become.


"The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Leslie and her stories is the courage and ferocity of her women. Women who must negotiate a culture not of their own design and not of their own choosing. Women who have experienced tragedy and misfortune. Women who have made mistakes. Women who are honest in their testimony, resourceful in their lives, daring, not shy." —Robert Olmstead, author of Far Bright Star

"Leslie Pietrzyk’s haunting Silver Girl begins in 1980, with a nameless narrator starting her freshman year at a prestigious Chicago-area university. The narrator escaped her economically depressed Iowa hometown, but the emotional baggage of a grim childhood and dysfunctional family continue to weigh her down like the bulky, cheaply made trunk that holds her belongings... Silver Girl concludes with a surge of hope, like the spring thaw after an icebound Chicago winter." —Foreword Reviews

"They think she is a simple, well-mannered girl, quiet and helpful. But the reader has seen into her past, knows her uncle, her little sister, her father, and all that happened back in Iowa. She is anything but. A dark, intense novel on a hot subject: female friendship complicated by class and privilege. Very good." —Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review in Publishers Weekly

"The latest from Pietrzyk is a profound, mesmerizing, and disturbing novel that delves into the vagaries of college relationships and how the social-financial stratum one is born into reverberates through one’s life." —Publishers Weekly

"In Silver Girl, Leslie Pietrzyk fearlessly explores the complex inner life of a young woman and her myriad complicated relationships with friends and sisters, while unearthing secrets about her traumatic past. Pietrzyk treats her characters with incredible empathy and tenderness, producing a deeply affecting novel about the terrible things we ask our young women to endure." —Mandy Berman, author of Perennials

Silver Girl is a blunt and piercing character study of a young woman making choices that are both understandable and unthinkably wrong; we watch helplessly as our unnamed narrator digs herself in deeper and deeper, sabotaging nearly every relationship in her life. Pietrzyk writes insightfully about female friendship, personal morality and accountability, unspooling an eminently compelling plot and delivering us, finally, to a redeeming moment of grace.” —Carolyn Parkhurst, author of The Dogs of Babel

"Pietrzyk’s writing is dense and intense as readers spend the book in her main character’s head, but her story is realistic and never sensational, even with the ripped-from-the-headlines 1982 Tylenol murders providing a backdrop and also personally affecting the girls. Readers who wished that Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep (2005) was darker should try Silver Girl." —Booklist

About the Author

Leslie Pietrzyk is the author of two novels, Pears on a Willow Tree and A Year and a Day, as well as a short story collection, This Angel on My Chest, which Jill McCorkle selected as the winner of the 2015 Drue Heinz Literature Prize and which was a finalist for the 2016 Library of Virginia Award for Fiction. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in many journals, including The Sun, Shenandoah, Iowa Review, TriQuarterly, New England Review, and the Washington Post Magazine. Excerpts from SILVER GIRL have been published in The Hudson Review, Gettysburg Review, Cincinnati Review, Midwestern Gothic, and River Styx. She has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and, most recently, the Hawthornden Castle Writers Retreat in Scotland. She currently teaches fiction at both the Converse College low-residency MFA program and the Johns Hopkins MA Program in Writing.