A nameless young woman starts her freshman year of college with one goal in mind: survival.
Newly transplanted to the big city of Chicago, she is one of the rare few to leave her small working class town in Iowa, let alone for a prestigious university. She is not driven by academic ambition, nor is she a social butterfly. Her true gift is an ability to understand the needs of others, and to reflect back the version of themselves they wish to see, rendering herself invisible.
Deftly, she conceals her deeply troubled past—especially from her charismatic yuppie-in-the-making best friend and roommate. For a while, she assimilates, living a new life not in any way her own. But the mask she wears cannot hide her secrets forever, and at some point she will be truly seen, possibly for the first time in her life.
Set in the early 80s, against the backdrop of a city terrorized by the Tylenol Killer, a local psychopath rumored to be stuffing cyanide into drugstore meds, Silver Girl is a deftly psychological account of the nuances of sisterhood. Contrasting obsession and longing, need versus desire, Leslie Pietrzyk delves into the ways class and trauma are often enmeshed to dictate one’s sense of self, and how a single relationship can sometimes lead to redemption.
The latest from Pietrzyk (Pears on a Willow Tree) is a profound, mesmerizing, and disturbing novel that delves into the vagaries of college relationships and how the social-financial stratum one is born into reverberates through one's life. The unnamed narrator hailing from a poor family headed by an abusive father in Iowa is befriended by her roommate, Jess, a charismatic Chicago socialite, during their freshman year at an unnamed university in Evanston, Ill. She wants to hide her past and reinvent herself. Meanwhile, Jess's father sends his mistress's daughter to live with the two girls after she accidentally poisons her mother. This strains the alliance between the two young women, already tenuous because of underlying jealousies and competitiveness. The narrator makes the same mistakes over and over again in her personal life, and the author posits that there is a way out, but at a cost. In addition to capturing college life on a Midwest campus, Pietrzyk brilliantly depicts the push-and-pull dynamics between the two women, resulting in a memorable character study.