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Third Girl from the Left    by Martha Southgate Amazon.com order for
Third Girl from the Left
by Martha Southgate
Order:  USA  Can
Houghton Mifflin, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover
* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Martha Southgate's Third Girl from the Left is different from any other fiction book I have ever read not so much in subject matter, but in presentation. The novel presents three generations of women from the Edwards family, who are united in only one thing: their passion for the movies.

Mildred Edwards loved to spend her Saturdays at the Dreamland in the Greenwood area of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Angela Edwards left Tulsa after high school hoping for a career as an actress in blaxploitation movies in Los Angeles. Tamara Edwards left LA for graduate school in New York City to study to be a director. These three woman have one other thing in common, although it is not as apparent as their love of film all three are disconnected from their mothers. At the age of eight, Mildred watched as her mother was shot in the Tulsa race riots of 1921. The always strong-willed Angela left her family when she was twenty and then appeared half-naked in a film, resulting in a rift with her mother. And Angela could never understand her own daughter, Tamara, causing a distance between them. This novel tells their stories, in which they find themselves and each other.

While there are many novels written about mothers and daughters and granddaughters, Southgate presents the Edwards women in an unusual manner. She divides her novel into three parts, one for each woman; however, they are not in chronological or even reverse chronological order. Angela's is first, then her mother's, followed by her daughter's. Within each section, some chapters take the point of view of other people in the main character's life. Also, the majority of Tamara's part of the story (but not all) is written in first person from her point of view. And while chapters from other characters' point of views in Tamara's section are written in third person, there is only one chapter from Mildred's point of view that is written in first person. All in all, I found this rather confusing.

Aside from the point of view and first person/third person changes, I found Third Girl from the Left to be a compelling read about three generations of women and their love for the movies. I would recommend this novel to any woman who is looking for an engrossing read that does not require a box of Kleenexes (although having a tissue nearby might be handy at points in the story).

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