From the start of Elizabeth McKenzie’s beguiling fiction debut, we are drawn into the offbeat worldview of sharp-eyed, intrepid Ann Ransom. Stop That Girl chronicles Ann’s colorful coming-of-age travails, from her childhood in a disjointed family through her tender adolescence and beyond. Along the way, she discovers the absurdities that lurk around every corner of a young woman’s life, by way of oafish neighbors, overzealous boyfriends, prurient vegetable salesmen, sour landlords, and an iconoclast grandmother, known even to her family as Dr. Frost. Keenly funny and highly original, Stop That Girl is a brilliant examination of the exigencies of love and the fragile fabric of family, and heralds the emergence of a remarkable new voice in fiction.
A starred review indicates a book of outstanding quality. A review with a blue-tinted title indicates a book of unusual commercial interest that hasn't received a starred review.STOP THAT GIRLElizabeth McKenzie. Random, (208p) Makeshift families, ill-advised relationships and a series of nonhomes shape McKenzie's wry, clever debut, a novel in nine stories. The tidy world of Ann Ransom, a precocious eight-year-old, is turned upside down when her mother, Helen, marries real estate broker Roy Weeks in the book's title story, and Ann is briskly shuttled off for a holiday in Europe with her eccentric, emotionally exhausting grandmother, Dr. Frost. Ann weathers the shift and learns to appreciate likable Roy, but must cope with her mother's increasing reclusiveness. Eight years later, in the perfectly pitched "We Know Where We Are but Not Why," her mother finally experiments with happiness "I use self-discipline to pick you up from school on time.... Why shouldn't I make myself be happy?" but the result is a disastrous summer vacation at the Grand Canyon. Ann gets the chance to escape her frustrating family in "Look Out, Kids," when the semi-apocryphal stories she tells a UC Santa Cruz financial aid officer convince him to give her a full scholarship. In the collection's gem, "S.O.S," Dr. Frost returns to haunt Ann in college, the visit coinciding with a campus appearance by Allen Ginsberg. Despite her desperate childhood desire for normalcy, as Ann grows up she finds herself leading an unconventional life that curiously mirrors her mother's. McKenzie's humor, Ann's touching bravado and the collection's subtle evocation of emotional undercurrents make this a poignant, incisive debut.