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May 17, 2021

The Clover Girls by Viola Shipman ~ a Review

by MK French

The Summer Read

Elizabeth, Veronica, Rachel, and Emily met at Camp Birchwood in 1985, and spent four summers as the Clover Girls before it fell apart. Time went on, and the four women's lives took on different turns than they had planned when young. Years later, Emily writes to Liz, V, and Rachel, begging them to return to the camp and try to rekindle their friendship.

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The Clover Girls
May 2021; Graydon House; 978-1525811524
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); women's fiction
When we open with Emily's letter home from camp, it's such an authentic-sounding voice for a teenager in the '80s. We then meet Liz, V, and Rachel in their current lives; they're supposedly successful, but in the hollow way that working women can be when they're chasing the perfection of "having it all." Whether it's managing a flawless minimalist home and children in LA for V, a business and family for Liz, and being a conservative politician's mouthpiece in the modern era for Rachel, there is a feeling of lack behind the shiny success. Emily died and hopes to leave the camp behind to the three of them if they can make up for the disaster that drove them all apart as teens.

This is a love letter to summer camps of the '80s, female friendships and the power friends have to strengthen each other. Or destroy each other. They lived their lives after leaving camp, with their highs and lows and petty jealousies. It comes into sharp focus once they're all together again, and they begin to see each other not as what they lack, but as how their friends see them. For all that she's absent, Em remains a vital part of the story and her ghost lingers over their interactions and memories. She feels real, the fragments we see of her, and she must have been a beautiful soul.

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Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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