Marlena is a vivid portrayal of an intoxicating friendship and the dangers it leads to; perfect for fans of The Girls by Emma Cline and My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante.
Everything about fifteen-year-old Cat's new town in rural Michigan is lonely and off-kilter, until she meets her neighbour, the manic, beautiful, pill-popping Marlena. Cat, inexperienced and desperate for connection, is quickly lured into Marlena's orbit by little more than an arched eyebrow and a shake of white-blonde hair. As the two girls turn the untamed landscape of their desolate small town into a kind of playground, Cat catalogues a litany of firsts - first drink, first cigarette, first kiss - while Marlena's habits harden and calcify. Within the year, Marlena is dead, drowned in six inches of icy water in the woods nearby. Now, decades later, when a ghost from that pivotal year surfaces unexpectedly, Cat must try to forgive herself and move on, even as the memory of Marlena keeps her tangled in the past.
Alive with an urgent, unshakeable tenderness, Julie Buntin's Marlena is an unforgettable look at the people who shape us beyond reason and the ways it might be possible to pull ourselves back from the brink.
In the media
The gifted young writer Julie Buntin has written a novel of deep and exquisite intelligence, humour and riveting sensitivity. A terrific debut
Julie Buntin captures that unique moment at the precipice of adulthood with emotional honesty and insight. She writes the kind of piercing, revelatory sentences you have to read to whomever is near, sentences you find yourself remembering years later
Jonathan Safran Foer
[A] vivid debut. . . .Buntin's prose is emotional and immediate, and the interior lives she draws of young women and obsessive best friends are Ferrante-esque
Sensitive and smart and arrestingly beautiful, makes coming-of-age stories feel both urgent and new. It could so easily be clichéd or sentimental. It is neither. Buntin creates a world so subtle and nuanced and alive that it imprints like a memory. Devastating; as unforgettable as it is gorgeous.