Book review of Kittentits by Holly Wilson

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There is nothing predictable about Holly Wilson’s debut novel, Kittentits.

Relating the coming-of-age of a 10-year-old girl named Molly Sibly, Kittentits is set in 1992 on the outskirts of Chicago. Molly lives in a dilapidated Quaker co-op called House of Friends, with her once-blind puppeteer father who inexplicably regained his eyesight after a house fire; a community-gardening evangelist named Evelyn, who is also Molly’s home-school teacher; and the ghost of Sister Regina, a nun who perished in the same fire that gave Molly’s father his eyesight back. With a mother who died shortly after her birth and no friends beyond a pen pal named Demarcus who never writes back, Molly’s life is rather lacking for company.

Molly, however, seems blissfully unaware of the misfortune that surrounds her. What she’s focused on is the opening of the World’s Fair and a houseguest named Jeanie who is fresh out of prison and assigned to live in the House of Friends as her halfway house. Molly sets herself the following goal: befriend the thrillingly crass Jeanie, meet Demarcus in person and enjoy the opening day of the World’s Fair with her two new best friends. Then a second goal emerges: open a spiritual portal at the Fair and find the ghost of her mother. I’ll say it again—there’s nothing predictable about this novel. And for this precise reason, Kittentits is nearly impossible to put down.

Narrated by Molly in the first person, the story is a fast-paced, filthy-mouthed adventure, told with an exuberance that can only be expected from a 10-year-old. There is a surrealism to everything that happens that is best not to question (the World’s Fair taking place in 1992 being the least of our worries).

While Molly clearly steals the show as the protagonist, Wilson demonstrates exceptional artistry with the supporting characters, capturing the fundamental experiences of trust, friendship, love and loss. Their backstories, however improbable, will resonate with your personal yearnings.

A bit deranged, a lot unforgettable, Kittentits needs to be your next literary escape.

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