Thank you to the lovely people at Gallery Books for my copy of Sorority by Genevieve Sly Crane. All thoughts and images are my own.
Author: Genevieve Sly Crane
Pub date: May 1, 2018
Read if you like: Scream Queens, Prep, episodic novels.
This book was written for teenage me – as a high school student, I devoured fiction about groups of female friends that revealed a truth of some kind, often a dark truth. Maybe it was my all girls school upbringing or my future involvement in a sorority or something else entirely, but these books hooked me. But Sorority is not a young adult novel. As an adult (meaning relative to my 16 year old self, don’t worry, I’m not truly a grown up yet), I thoroughly enjoyed it. The writing is complex and the subject matter is challenging.
This novel essentially reads as a collection of short stories with a common set of characters – each chapter focuses on a different sister of the sorority and the things that haunt her. No topic is off limits – this book addresses disordered eating, unplanned pregnancy, sexual aggression, abusive relationships, drug addiction – the list goes on and on. It dismantles any myths about the girls in this sorority being “perfect” or “blessed,” one chapter at a time.
One of the unique writing techniques Crane employs is immersing the reader in first person accounts of life events that we don’t normally experience in so intimate of a way. The two that come to mind are a birth, narrated by the mother in labor, and a death, narrated by the woman dying. Crane’s storytelling is vulnerable, visceral, and inventive. The subject material of this book is exactly what I craved as a teenager, but it is genuinely well crafted (which is more than I can say for many of the books I read back the mid 2000’s). If you like tales of Greek life or all-girls living but you also like solid literary fiction, try this book.
SYNOPSIS: (AS TOLD BY THE BACK OF THE BOOK)
Twinsets and pearls, secrets and kinship, rituals that hold sisters together in a sacred bond of everlasting trust. Certain chaste images spring to mind when one thinks of sororities. But make no mistake: these women are not braiding one another’s hair and having pillow fights – not by a long shot.
Margot is dead. There’s a rumor she died because she couldn’t take the pressure of being a pledge. You may not ask what happened to her. It’s not your business. But it wasn’t a suicide, if you’re wondering.
Spring Fling will not be canceled. The deposit is nonrefundable. And Margot would have wanted the sisterhood to continue in her absence, if only to protect her sister’s secrets: Shannon is the thinnest girl in the house (the other sisters hate her for it, but they know her sacrifice: she only uses the bathroom by the laundry room); Kyra has slept with twenty-nine boys since she started college (they are all different and all the same); Amanda is a virgin (her mincing gait and sloping posture give it away_; and while half the sisters are too new to have known Margot, Deirdre remembers her, always remembers…
With a keen sense of character and elegant, observant prose, Crane details the undercurrents of tension in a world where perfection comes at a cost and the best things in life are painful – if not impossible – acquire: Beauty. A mother’s love. And friendship… or at least the appearance of it. Woven throughout the glimmers of the classical myths that undercut the lives of women in Greek life. After all, the Greek goddesses did cause their fair share of destruction.