Dorothy Rice Bennett's 'Girls On The Run'
An unlikely friendship emerges when two strangers meet.
Jennifer—straight, insecure, naïve—and Stacy—lesbian, confident, angry—are young women each running away from home for different reasons. When they meet at a truck stop and decide to travel west together, a friendship soon forms that leads to them sharing an apartment when they get to San Francisco. As they each look for work and struggle to build a life in the city, their own personal journeys bring them even closer together.
I am going to start off by getting a couple of criticisms of this book out of the way. Firstly, the reason for Jennifer running away was, for me, just too far beyond my zone of belief. No matter what I learnt about Jennifer as a character after that, it didn’t add up. Secondly, the book has way too much detail, and repetition of facts and back stories, that simply slow the narrative down. I found myself skim reading many passages as it was clear they were adding nothing to the overall flow of the story.
And that is a real shame, because underneath it all, this is a good story. Jennifer and Stacy couldn’t be more different when they first meet, and it seems highly unlikely they’d even be friends, never mind more. But the journey they undertake, and the decisions they have to make together once they get to San Francisco, brings them very naturally together into a wonderful friendship. If you set aside all the extraneous detail, this underlying story is very well paced, completely believable and delicately done.
Jennifer’s arc is the biggest and best. Her gradual realization of her sexuality, as well as the way she masters her insecurities, is well written. I liked the introduction of the so-called best friend, who turned out not to be so great a friend, as a sounding board for that part of her journey. It meant that Jennifer’s arc wasn’t totally tied to how she felt about Stacy, which would have been too pat. Stacy’s arc was less than Jennifer’s simply because she really only had one issue to deal with. After suffering some heartbreak whilst in the army, she has a fear of commitment, thinking she’ll lose the people she cares about if she invests anything in them. I liked her side story too, of her job as a mechanic, because that introduced some good characters and more development for her as a person. Up to that point, I felt I didn’t really know who she was, whereas Jennifer’s issues had been apparent from the get go, and explored more fully.
It’s definitely worth a read – the two main characters are highly likeable and their transition from friends to more is sweetly done. If you don’t mind detail, you’ll love it. If you do, then do what I did and skim – you’ll still enjoy the story.