Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favourites, as well as books that were published over a year ago. Not to mention those that are languishing on the to be read pile for whatever reason.
Being a member of Rosie Amber’s book review team means I’ve read some fabulous books which I probably wouldn’t have known about otherwise. This is one of them. Published in 2015, The Bad Girl was a 5* read for me.
Although this is a novella it packs a huge emotional punch. It’s a dark look at one very damaged girl’s fight to survive in 1970s New York. Riley Madison works in The Deuce, an area of Manhattan well known to the police and those who liked to indulge their individual pleasures. At just twenty-two, Riley does what she has to in order to survive. Her life has been a series of horrendous situations and, emotionally scarred, she can’t envisage herself ever having a better life. Despite it all, she endures.
The story is told mainly from Riley’s perspective but opens with Samson, Riley’s cat, her best and only friend, apart from the other stray cats she has collected, which serves to highlight her isolation and loneliness, unhealthy lifestyle and total lack of self-worth.
Yes, Girl had saved him from a certain death. Which is why Samson loved her, was devoted to her as much as any feline could be…….no-one ever dropped by to talk with her or make her laugh as he knew other humans did with each other. And this, to Samson, felt wrong.
A turning point presents itself after Riley’s heartbreakingly sad existence takes a decidedly downward spiral. She visits the animal shelter with Samson and meets Bennie Sadowski again. But things get a lot worse for Riley before they begin to get better.
An extremely well crafted story, very poignant, powerful and moving, which had me choked up by the end. The plot and characters are wonderfully written with depth and realism. I can see how events could easily unfold in the way they are portrayed. The very striking comparison between the absolute best and complete worst of humanity is showcased by Bennie and Fitz, who is a Vietnam survivor. Two men who, despite their own problems, do their best to help Riley. Even though the story is brutal in parts there are lighter moments and flashes of humour. I enjoyed the character driven narrative, the excellent writing and the different slant the author takes on the subject of abuse. Look forward to more from L. Donsky-Levine.
About the book
1971. Riley Madison is always looking over her shoulder. And always running. From poverty, from abuse, from a childhood snuffed out by a junkie mother, and a violent past marginally kept at bay. This twenty-two-year-old New Yorker lives in her less than perfect world where her only friend is a cat, and when not self-medicating with Twinkies, Oreos and cigarettes, she works at a Times Square sex emporium servicing anyone who can pay. Not because she wants to. But because she has to if she aims to stay one step ahead of the dangerous underworld that sees her as nothing more than prey. Prey whose internal armor is about to be tested in ways she never imagined when her life once again spirals out of control.
Survival in the animal world is a simple concept. Survival in the human world is not.