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The Dead Girl


Melanie Thernstrom (View Bio)
Hardcover: Pocket Books, 1990; Paperback: Pocket Books, 1991; Online Edition: Chu Hartley Publishers, 2016.

The Dead Girl

Berkeley freshman Roberta (Bibi) Lee went running with her boyfriend Brad Page one morning. She never came back. Brad said she had run off by herself. A huge missing person search was launched, with Brad at its head. Eventually, the girl's battered body was found on a bed of branches in a shallow grave and within hours, Page had confessed to the murder, and then recanted. The resulting prosecution was one of the strangest and most publicized in California history. This "true crime" backdrop, however, is just the frame for Melanie Thernstrom's heartbreaking elegy to her lost high school friend, who comes alive in this intensely literary work as few victims will ever do.

Now available as an e-book!

"What a dark, magical book! The Dead Girl reads like the most convincing of fairy tales, one where childish fears give way to the grimmest of adult realities. Part memoir, part whodunit, this is a passionately self-examined account of a lost friend and the effect of that loss. In its vaulting ambition, its fierce, unironic wish to create meaning from chaos, it is a welcome departure from much of contemporary writing." — Daphne Merkin, The Washington Post Book World

"This is a book about final things by a seriously talented young writer. It is so real and penetrating and so scarring that I think I will never forget it. I am grateful that this book exists." — Ellen Schwamm

"Thernstrom has created something unique.... Partly a memorial to Lee, partly a meditation on the ineradicable presence of violence in relations between men and women, and partly a personal, unsparing look at Thernstrom's tumultuous effort to come to grips with her own overwhelming sense of desolation and vulnerability.... Virtues of style, insight, and harrowing honesty. The Dead Girl is a triumph of self-revelation." — Chicago Tribune

"The Dead Girl is a unique story — powerfully moving, stark, tender, and a wonderful read." — Mary Higgins Clark

"The Dead Girl builds with such graceful momentum that it reads like water flowing." — Greil Marcus, California

"Passionate and articulate, lovely and compelling ...An impressive debut and a strong stirring memoir of a friend...reminds us what a thin edge we are on, and therefore of how astonishing it is to be alive." — Anne Lamott, Mademoiselle

"Melanie Thernstrom's The Dead Girl is a beautiful instance of what she herself calls 'elegies to reality.' Its passionate sincerity has been redeemed and purged into art by the agile artifice that she knows is essential for elegy. The Dead Girl is an eloquent memorial to a slain friend, and it is also a remarkable instance of narrative grace and perspective, at once tautly vulnerable and gently memorable." — Harold Bloom

"In the tangle of Thernstrom's unflinchingly honest narrative is a profoundly unsettling portrait of privilege punctuated by despair." — People

"Imaginative, complex, and impassioned, Melanie Thernstrom's The Dead Girl is as much about growing up as it is about murder, as much about life — the life of young people today — as it is about death." — Linda Wolfe

"I like this book better than In Cold Blood. It is more honest, more credible, more frightening, and more instructive." — Harold Brodkey

"Honest, raw, and disturbing." — Self

"Eloquent ...A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman.... The nature of female friendship, of the closeness of 'best friends,' and the importance of friendship to the evolution of personality are visible here as in few other books I have read." — Helen Vendler, The New York Review of Books

"An extraordinary book...exquisitely written meditations. Melanie Thernstrom inhabits her book in an entirely original voice, struggling to make sense not only of what happened, but of how to tell it. You will feel changed by hearing her voice and carry it around for a long time." — Louise Bernikow, Cosmopolitan

"An astonishingly delicate and sensitive memorial to a lost friend.... Compelling." — Boston Globe

"A vastly gifted writer." — Kirkus Reviews

"A powerful, moving book.... The Dead Girl is a testament to the magnetic power of her death, and Thernstrom's exceptional sensitivity qualifies her as an ideal guide through the darkness." — Daniel Max, The New Republic

"A powerful, exhaustive memoir of the writer's grief and recovery." — New York Magazine

"A great many funny, sad, wise and compelling things about life are said in this book." — Cleveland Plain Dealer

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