Book Review · Reading

Three For A Girl by Kevin Brennan #BookReview

Book cover showing front cover with three photos, a house, a crow, and an old station wagon. The back cover has a blurb for the novel.

Three for a Girl by Kevin Brennan is one of those character-driven stories that gets into my head and stays and stays and stays. The story is told from the point-of-view of LeeAnn Heartney as she recalls the summer of 1973 when she was 17 and the Watergate hearings dominated the news. Not that she cared. LeeAnn’s only interest was to find a way, any way, to get as far from her dysfunctional family as possible. At the time of the telling, decades have gone by, but LeeAnn narrates with a cool assessment of that summer in particular and her family in general. I was intrigued by LeeAnn’s story because I was 16 in the summer of 1973. I too fantasized about when and how I would leave my small hometown. While I was more politically aware than LeeAnn cared to be, in terms of emotional maturity, I was more like her younger sister, Jeannie, who was only 14 at the time. Still, LeeAnn reminded me of a lot of girls I knew back then and a little of myself.

The novel is a coming-of-age story, not just for LeeAnn, but also for her parents and her little sister. Her mom was only in her teens when she became pregnant with LeeAnn, but she had the good fortune to marry a man who loved her. They were working poor, but happy until the death of their baby boy. Then it all fell apart. Deep in grief, LeeAnn’s parents draw away from each other and leave the girls–LeeAnn and Jeannie–to more or less fend for themselves. No doubt that is one reason why LeeAnn seems mature for her age. She’s calculating but in a sensible way, figuring out all the angles, all the things that could go wrong. When three men who run an ambulance service rent the upstairs rooms of her home, LeeAnn sees her ticket to a new life on their “rocket-ship red and white” converted Caddie. One way or another, one of those three men would escort her to California, away from her parents’ slow disintegration. The only catch is Jeannie, three years her junior and sugar to her spice.

LeeAnn tells her family’s story by plying their versions of events with her own, giving a first-person account of their experiences based on talks she had with them long after the summer of 1973. This is a fluid kind of storytelling. Rather than give each character a chapter of their own to tell their story in a clearly demarcated way, LeeAnn’s voice, and the voices of her parents, sister, and even one of the ambulance men, flow throughout the novel like rivulets coming together and then flowing apart.

For more on how LeeAnn pulls off this way of storytelling, read Brennan’s interview with her here. (I love it when authors interview their characters.) What I also liked about this approach is that it shows the sympathy that LeeAnn has for her family. She cares for them more than she cares to admit.

The darkest part of this novel, for me, was the grief that consumed Leeny and Gerald, LeeAnn’s parents. Their baby boy who only lived a few months literally haunts the whole family for ten long years. As too often happens, his death also separates Leeny and Gerald emotionally, their marriage teetering on the edge. While there was much in the novel that moved me, reading about Leeny and Gerald’s grief nearly brought me to tears at times because it was so well done, so spot-on, and so painfully accurate.

But you can’t have darkness without light. While I was on pins and needles through much of the novel, with one calamity after another and I’m not talking just about Watergate, I knew the novel had to end well enough because LeeAnn was telling the story. Finding out just how well it would end was why I was reading. That I didn’t know exactly how it all would turn out until the end is a testament to Brennan’s skill as a novelist.

I highly recommend Three for a Girl by Kevin Brennan.

You can get your copy through the following links:

Kindle:            US        UK        Canada       Australia

Paperback:     US        UK        Canada       Australia

Follow Kevin at his blog where you can find links to his other books: WHAT THE HELL. Kevin Brennan Writes About What It’s Like


12 thoughts on “Three For A Girl by Kevin Brennan #BookReview

  1. Kevin’s new book sounds amazing, Marie! The way the story is told is so intriguing and sounds as if it was difficult to master and quite an accomplishment! Thanks so much for sharing about the book. Your reviews are always the best!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure, Ally. I am so backlogged with books. I thought I’d have more time to read after I retired, but … well, I do have more time so I’m not fooling anybody. I’m just a procrastinator at heart!

      Liked by 1 person

Tell me what you really think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.