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Thirty Girls

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3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  1,652 ratings  ·  328 reviews
Esther is a Ugandan teenager abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army and forced to witness and commit unspeakable atrocities, who is struggling to survive, to escape, and to find a way to live with what she has seen and done. Jane is an American journalist who has traveled to Africa, hoping to give a voice to children like Esther and to find her center after a series of fai ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 11th 2014 by Knopf
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Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is one of those books that's sold as a story of atrocities in a little-known country, but that actually focuses on the mundane angst of a visiting American.

Jane is a 38-year-old journalist from New York, who travels to Uganda to recover from a failed marriage. She soon meets the much younger Harry, to whom she attaches herself like a barnacle, obsessing about the relationship while setting out with a group of aimless expats on a road trip to interview children kidnapped by Kony's Lord's Res
...more
Kristin
Minot is a tremendous writer, and I've been a fan for years, but this novel made me angry.

UPDATE: Just read an extraordinary novel similarly focused on true life events and hardships (Anthony Marra's "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena"), and wanted to say to Susan Minot: "THIS is how it's done! THIS is how you write someone else's story without putting yourself in it!"

The story of the kidnapped schoolgirls in Uganda (so eerily and sadly similar to what just happened in Nigeria) is told beauti
...more
Julie
This book and the impression it left on me have not been far from my mind since I finished it several days ago. I had a feeling of deja vu in the early pages, and realized I had picked up Thirty Girls and set it aside last year after only two or three chapters. I can't recall why it didn't speak to me then, but I'm so glad I returned to complete it.

The 'I've read this before' feeling also rose because I so recently read Francesca Marciano's striking Rules of the Wild, written several years befo
...more
☔Diane S.
This is a fictional account based on the actual abduction of school girls from St. Mary's College of Aboke, Uganda in 1996. It seemed like the perfect time to read this now that the world has come together to find another group of girls, abducted by another madman.

The girls in this book were abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army led by the evil Joseph Kony, and after reading this book one can see what a deluded psychopath he is in fact. We first meet Esther, one of the girls taken who later esc
...more
Chaitra
This book should have been called Thirty Something Girl. Then, it would have been accurate. This isn't a story of the thirty girls abducted by Joseph Kony's LRA from a school called St. Mary's. One of them, Esther, narrates less than a third of the book about the (severely edited I think) horrors of the LRA, wherein we're lucky if she names about 6 girls by their first name. The rest is all our middle-aged American Jane, and her love affair with a much younger Harry. She doesn't even seem emotio ...more
Jill
It may seem like a contradiction in terms to label a novel that focuses on real-life atrocities in Uganda as a “hopeful novel.” But indeed, there is a thread of hope that runs through Susan Minot’s new novel, based on the true-life tale of the abduction of 30 girls from St. Mary’s College boarding school in Uganda by the Lord’s Resistance Army.

There are two stories that are interwoven through alternating chapters. The first is that Esther Akello, who has experienced and witnessed horrors that no
...more
Katie
This book is amazing. I am a huge Minot fan, and this is her best yet. The juxtaposition of privileged white travelers against the abducted girls is a brilliant move. it's impossible to read without getting angry, but the prose will wash over you like a warm bath. wonderfully disorienting. loved it.
Jennifer
What a massive disappointment. The story of Esther, one of 139 girls kidnapped by the LRA from her school, was one I cared about. Unfortunately, the book was oddly structured and, worse, spent most of its time focusing on Jane, a completely unnecessary to the plot journalist from America. I found Jane (who spent moments with Esther at the rehabilitation camp but was, of course, the one who got through to her & helped her find peace) and her place in this story offensive.
Lisa Lieberman
The following conversation takes place midway through Susan Minot's latest novel. Jane, a writer motivated to go to Uganda and report on the abduction of thirty girls from their Catholic boarding school by rebel soldiers of Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army, has just come from the school, where she heard the stories of three girls who'd managed to escape, "...their soft voices speaking of unspeakable things."
They handed the bottle back and forth and spoke of the girls.
I don't need to hear the
...more
Jenny Shank
Some cruelties are so incomprehensible that our instinct for self-preservation often makes us want to shut knowledge of them out. “I hear their stories and feel bad,” a character says in Susan Minot’s new novel, Thirty Girls. “How does it help them if my head is filled with horrible images?” Another character counters, “It helps them if you listen.”

Such is the case for the story of tens of thousands of Ugandan children kidnapped and forced to become soldiers and sex slaves for the Lord’s Resista
...more
Jennifer
Although this covers similar ground as works by Dave Eggers and Ishmael Beah--both remarkable in their own right--Thirty Girls is even more remarkable because of its fidelity to the novel genre. It is firmly based in reality, but Minot also shines as an artist with deft control of her characters, their voices and interactions, and the collision of plots that leaves the reader shattered, blinded by Esther's unfailing hope for the future and Jane's quest for love in herself and in the world.
Rand
May 14, 2014 Rand rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Rand by: first reads program
You belong where you are. You are possible.

A quick, engaging read with a sleek, alternating triptych narrative structure that deals in graphic themes that are not for the faint of heart.

***TRIGGER WARNING*** for those sensitive to descriptions of extreme violence.

(view spoiler)
...more
Karen
139 girls are kidnapped by the Lords Resistance Army run by Joseph Kony, from a small boarding school in rural Uganda. A brave teacher Sister Giulia follows their trail through the night and miraculously negotiates 109 releases. Esther Akello is one of the thirty girls she cannot save and these young girls spend months and years being pretend wives and having real babies, killing innocent bystanders and doing whatever it takes to survive.

Jane Wood, an American writer, travels to Africa to invest
...more
Lisa
Esther's story merits at least 4 stars, but the self-centered writer having an Eat Pray Love experience in Kenya and Uganda seriously hurts this book. I hate the idea of a white savior, and I really hate juxtaposing a heartbreaking story with an annoying one. Minot can write, and this would have been a much better book without the prospective of the American writer.
Melinda
"Something stretches beyond you, drawing you along, and as you move forward in a dark place you can barely make out shapes and your faces feels invisible. No one sees you anymore. You dont think it, but you have the odd feeling: Maybe this will lead me home."

The book focuses on two central characters. Jane Wood an American journalist is in Uganda to do a story on the abductions and the survivors of the kidnappings by Kony's LRA, and Esther Akello, a surviving kidnapped girl of the LRA. The nar
...more
AJ
I've never read Susan Minot and not sure I would've ever read her. I was given an advanced copy from a dear friend and I have to say I was meant to read this book. The juxtaposition of story from these two women is amazingly well done. I felt myself in the pages from the love to doubt to fear and back again. This is a must read!
Cheryl
I picked up this book because I was really excited to read this story. I am not that familiar with Uganda. However I thought this would be a heart wrecking story in a good way. Ok, so sometimes a story can sound good but it is all in the execution. I felt that the execution feel way down in this book. Such a disappointment.

Esther and her story is the only part that I really enjoyed about this book. This is what I felt was the whole meat of the story. It was Jane that brought this story down for
...more
Joyce
Not an easy book, although Robin Miles does an outstanding job with the narration--an amazing range of accents and cadences. Based on the true story of young women kidnapped from a Ugandan convent school by the Lord's Resurrection Army, the novel intertwines two stories: that of Esther, a young woman captured, violated, but who escaped to a rehabilitation camp; and that of Jane, the American journalist, at loose ends in her personal life, who comes to Uganda to write about the atrocities. Their ...more
Megan
I waffled back and forth between hating this book and loving it. First of all, the author switches between two different points of view; Esther- one of the kidnapped girls, and Jane- the traveling writer who wants to share the girls' story with the world.
The prose is beautiful and was what kept me captivated. The two voices were very well written.
What was annoying to me were the excerpts written from Jane's perspective, the majority of the book. As other reviewers have commented, Jane's world is
...more
Cathy
Thirty Girls is based upon the real-life abduction of 139 girls from St. Mary's College in Aboke, Uganda, by soldiers from the Lord's Resistance Army led by the infamous Joseph Kony. The headmistress of the school followed the rebels and was given 109 girls, but the rebels kept 30. Their story is told here by Esther Akello, one of the young girls who eventually escaped and was living in a rehabilitation camp. These girls were given little to eat, raped, beaten and forced to kill. Esther tells he ...more
Vionna
This book deserved a 2.5 rating. The storyline about the adducted girls in Uganda at the hands of rebels was very interesting, especially how they learned to survive the brutality. The story of the American journalist, Jane, was somewhat on the boring side. She was a self-absorbed character.
Wendy Cosin
In Thirty Girls, author Susan Minot tells the story of the Lord's Resistance Army's abduction of Ugandan girls from two perspectives. Jane is an American journalist who travels to Africa for the story and to get away from her life; Esther is a captured teenager who tells the story of her capture, escape, and recovery in the first person. The novel is based on research, including true stories, about "Kony's children". The author effectively describes the situation in the rebel camps and in Uganda ...more
Emily Crowe
Rachel
I am not sure I can fairly present my hesitations about this book without reading more of this author to see if there is a better understanding of her style to be found that was lost on me. A review of this book, which I read before I started this book, praised it for its lack of sensationalism. I cannot argue with that perspective. I am not sure that the balance was achieved between respectful presentation of the experiences of the children abducted by the LRA and apparent usage of this as a ba ...more
Terri Jacobson
This book starts with the abduction of about a hundred girls from a convent school in Uganda. The Mother Superior of the school, Sister Rosalie, immediately goes on a search to retrieve them. She is successful in bringing home all but 30 of the girls. What slowly dawns on the reader is that these remaining girls have been abducted by rebels belonging to the army of Joseph Kony and his LRA (Lord's Resistance Army). This group kidnaps both boys and girls as young as age 10. The girls are raped and ...more
Ian
Here comes a review of of a novel with a split personality. This is the only novel I have managed to find that tries to deal with the appalling crimes committed in Uganda by Joseph Kony and the Lords Resistance Army (LRA). So it is seems to be a subject matter where authors fear to tread, and Susan Minot deserves some praise for attempting to do it justice. It is however a truly disappointing novel given such promising materials.

When the story focusses on the fate of fifteen year old Esther, on
...more
Carla
This story is a work of fiction but based some on true events. Children were, and still are, abducted and are a part of Kony's child "soldiers". Really in essence they are sex slaves and they are all used and abused. The story is told by two main characters, Ester, a child who was abducted and who finally escaped and is in a rehab "camp", and Jane, a white journalist who was moved to come to Africa to write a story about the children, specifically that are abducted from a Catholic residential sc ...more
Alex Templeton
This novel tracks the somewhat intersecting stories of Jane, an American journalist traveling through Africa to research a story about thirty girls abducted from a Catholic school by followers of Joseph Kony, and Esther, one of the abducted girls who has escaped to freedom. I would really like to speak with someone who had very positive feelings about this book. To me, it was one of those unfortunate reading experiences where I kept with a book, thinking if I could just make it to the end, all m ...more
Gato22
When I read the description of this book, it sounded like it was about a group of girls kidnapped by the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda - an important and interesting subject. Maybe 1/4 of the book was. By and large, however, it was about an American journalist having a midlife crisis. The book alternated viewpoints between the first-person narration of one of the kidnapped girls and a third-person account of the journalist supposedly investigating her story (while mostly just attending dinner ...more
Judith
There are times when a young, agile, talented woman from a wealthy world can tell the story of her own exhilaration, foibles, and losses and make me rejoice at her delight, laugh with her at her errors in judgement, and be deeply moved by her sadness. Too often lately books by women,in part or wholly like the above, attach their own narratives, narratives that might stand strongly in their own milieus, to those of others whose experiences are much, much larger, often truly tragic or powerful, an ...more
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The role of Harry 2 20 Mar 04, 2014 09:58AM  
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Susan Minot is an award-winning novelist and short story writer whose books include Monkeys, Folly, Lust & Other Stories, and Evening, which was adapted into the feature film of the same name starring Meryl Streep. Minot was born in Boston and raised in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, attended Brown University, and received her MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. She curren ...more
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“I learned that if you love a boy you are o longer free. The boy may become more important than your own self and if it is so, you will find trouble there. The first time you are hurt in your heart, you do not forget the lesson. It stays forever.” 5 likes
“So many things in this world were cracked and sad, and still a glowing showed through and moments came when everything was lit and love happened. Every tree stood where it belonged, each bird had perfect feathers folded against its tiny body, each holding a heart beating madly. Life was a vibration of light and dark, and love illuminated that life. Then darkness descended and your heart was ripped apart. So that was part of it, a requirement of the miracle. Death stayed, lurking in the shadow of beauty. In the bargain, life both had meaning and had none. So, she kept thinking, what to do? What to do? A pressure in her would not stop asking. There were not many things she could make better, not many things she could change. And yet…and yet…sparks of possibility still shot out. Unasked for, they came and randomly flew up.” 0 likes
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