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The Big Girls    by Susanna Moore order for
Big Girls
by Susanna Moore
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2007 (2007)

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Dr. Louise Forrest, Sloatsburg Correctional Institution's chief of psychiatry, provides psychiatric help for inmates in need of it. Helen Nash is incarcerated in the institution on the west bank of the Hudson River for killing her two children. Corrections officer Ike Bradshaw is falling in love with Louise Forrest, who has her own baggage and seems in need of intensive counseling herself.

The Big Girls is a compelling novel that pinpoints the holes in the United States' mental health care system - and does it with a sympathetic hand. Author Susanna Moore also paints a chilling picture of the prison, where the inmates pretty well run the institution themselves, with depravity and violence as everyday occurrences. The incompetence and brutality of the guards is heartbreaking, when one realizes that the author is writing fiction taken from fact.

The interplay of the main characters makes for a gripping story. The method of writing diverges from the 'he said' or 'she replied' format. Each section of this memorable drama depicts the feelings of the individual of the moment. The whole plot revolves around their own actions or thoughts, and their reactions to them. This is not a novel to read and forget. The Big Girls stays with you for days afterwards.

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