RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK
THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
'I couldn't put it down. . . an important book, raw and simple enough that you can't help but feel it deeply' James Rebanks, author of The Shepherd's Life
Talented and ambitious, Monica Potts and her best friend, Darci, were both determined to make something of themselves. How did their lives turn out so different?
Growing up gifted and working-class in the foothills of the Ozarks, Monica and Darci became fast friends. Bonding over a shared love of learning, they pored over the giant map in their classroom, tracing their fingers over the world that awaited them, vowing to escape their broken town. In the end, Monica left Clinton for university and fulfilled her dreams. Darci, along with many in their circle of friends, did not.
Years later, working as a journalist covering poverty, Monica discovers what she already intuitively knew about the women in Arkansas. Their life expectancy had steeply declined -- the sharpest such fall in a century. As she returns to Clinton to report the story, she reconnects with Darci, and finds that her once talented and ambitious best friend is now a statistic: a single mother of two, addicted to meth, jobless and nearly homeless. Deeply aware that Darci's fate could have been hers, she retraces the moments in each of their lives that led such similar women toward such different destinies. Why did Monica make it out while Darci became ensnared in a cycle of poverty and opioid abuse?
Gripping and unforgettable, The Forgotten Girls is a story of friendship and lost promise in 21st century America.
Think Elena Ferrante and My Brilliant Friend. Potts is excellent at showing how the political sentiments that white, poorly educated women uphold ultimately circumscribe their lives. In many ways it's a universal story: rural Britain fits this mould too -- Francesca Angelini * The Sunday Times *
The Forgotten Girls rings with authenticity, a powerful, personal analysis of how women in poor, white, religious societies suffer. This, it struck me, isn't just an American story; it's the American story -- Melanie Reid * The Times *
A modern classic on deprivation and the fine margins that exist between a life of plenty and one of relentless hardship * Prospect Magazine, Best Books of the Year *
A deeply moving story of growing up in America's Bible Belt. I thought about it for days afterwards -- Francesca Steele * I News *
The Forgotten Girls is a lament for lost opportunities and wasted lives; a controlled expression of rage at a system that fails so many even as it exploits their despair -- Stephanie Merritt * The Observer *
At its heart an intensely moving, personal story of unbreakable friendship, this, like Tara Westover's Educated, is a book that packs a much wider resonance at a time when the gap between rich and poor grows ever wider across the world. It asks vital questions about life chances; and the seeming randomness of who gets them, and who doesn't -- Caroline Sanderson * The Bookseller, Non-Fiction Book of the Month *
This is a patient, heartfelt description of the dark side of the American dream, a once vibrant community abandoned by global capitalism, and prey to any demagogue promising to 'Make America Great Again' * The Tablet *
Not everyone can live the American Dream in the Land of the Free, as Monica Potts discovers when she returns to her Arkansas hometown to investigate the drop in life expectancy in women in rural areas. In The Forgotten Girls, she reconnects with an old friend who has fallen into a common cycle of poverty and opioid abuse. This autobiographical tale tells a very different American Story, rife with systemic injustices and societal constraints -- Rhiannon Thomas * Radio Times *
Tender, perceptive, important - and heartbreaking -- Lee Child
I couldn't put it down. . . American culture has a toxic forgetting at its heart, a forgetting about communities that have lost their way and a blindness to why they fail. It made me think of so many people's lives in small towns and rural areas in Britain -- a powerful reminder that when you forget about people and consign them to eternity in failing places, then you create something deeply harmful for all of us. It is an important book, raw and simple enough that you can't help but feel it deeply -- James Rebanks, author of English Pastoral
A tender memoir of a lifelong friendship and a shocking account of hardship in rural America, The Forgotten Girls is beautifully written, painstakingly researched and deeply affecting -- Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train
The Forgotten Girls is much more than a memoir; it's the unflinching story of rural women trying to live in the most rugged, ultra-religious and left-behind places in America. Rendering what she sees with poignancy and whip-smart analyses, Monica Potts took a gutsy, open-hearted journey home and turned it into art -- Beth Macy, author of Dopesick
Beautiful and hard, a deeply reported memoir of a place, a friendship, a childhood and a country riven by systemic injustices transformed into individual tragedies. Monica Potts is a gifted writer; I read this extraordinary story of friendship and sisterhood, ambition and loss in rural America in one sitting; it is propulsive, clear and really important -- Rebecca Traister, author of Good and Mad
Monica Potts tells a compelling story of grief and friendship rooted in the cycles of generational pain in rural Arkansas. Her story of growing up in Clinton, needing to leave, and the compulsion to return to a place of love and disappointment is a devastating tale of the suffering writ large across the dislocated American heartland. -- Helen Thompson, author of Disorder
A deeply personal memoir of childhood. Potts has created a complicated tribute to her friend and to a generation 'set up for failure' -- Katy Guest * The Mail on Sunday *
A troubling tale of heartland America in cardiac arrest, of friendship tested, of meth and Sonic burgers and every other kind of bad nourishment, of what we have let happen to our rural towns, and what they have invited on themselves. A personal and highly readable story about two women in a small cranny of America, but which offers an illuminating panorama of where our country stands -- Sam Quinones, author of Dreamland
In a landscape where writing grounded in true events is expected to be either objective reporting about events from which the writer is fully detached or confessional lived experience, Monica Potts has created a rare mix of reportage and memoir that brings the best of both forms to bear on an empathetic and nuanced examination, told from an insider's perspective, of what it means to be working class, white, and female in America today -- Emma Copley Eisenberg, author of The Third Rainbow Girl
A masterly labour of love. In its unflinching exploration of character, circumstance and destiny, it's perfect. * Prospect Magazine *
Dimensions: 218mm x 142mm x 32mm