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Thirty Girls

3.39  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,886 Ratings  ·  365 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
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is a novelization of the girls abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda in 1996. I can tell the author did a lot of research, including (I think) some in-person interviews. It is a shame, then, that she felt she needed to make a female American journalist character the primary focus of the book, rather than the nuns and children the story should be about. In the first 100 pages, we get a few pages of the harrowing account of the abduction and like 80 pages about white non-Africans t ...more
May 19, 2014 Kristin rated it did not like it
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
Jul 06, 2015 Julie rated it really liked it
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
Diane S ☔
May 28, 2014 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
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
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
Mar 27, 2015 Jill rated it really liked it
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
Aug 13, 2013 Katie rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 24, 2014 Jennifer rated it did not like it
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.
Jenny Shank
Mar 09, 2014 Jenny Shank rated it really liked it
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
Jul 29, 2013 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-read-for-work
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.
Apr 10, 2014 Lisa rated it it was ok
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.
Lisa Lieberman
Feb 09, 2015 Lisa Lieberman rated it it was ok
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
May 14, 2014 Rand rated it really liked it
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)
Apr 10, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it
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
May 12, 2014 Melinda rated it liked it
Shelves: arc, 2014
"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
Aug 21, 2013 AJ rated it it was amazing
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!
Apr 02, 2014 Cheryl rated it it was ok
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
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
Jul 10, 2014 Megan rated it really liked it
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
Apr 06, 2015 Cathy rated it really liked it
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
Mar 17, 2016 Pamela rated it did not like it
I was going to give this book 2 stars, but, I just got finished with the last quarter of the book. This last quarter was angering. This totaled the book. The 2 stars was for the writing of Esther's story and the amazing reader who read it (audiobook version), but now I can't even give it 2 stars. I just can't.

First of all, let's just clarify, this book is really not about the "Thirty Girls". Don't let that title fool you. This book should have been named "Desperately Thirty Something" because th
Feb 17, 2014 Vionna rated it liked it
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
Jan 11, 2014 Wendy Cosin rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa
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
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
Feb 19, 2014 Terri Jacobson rated it it was amazing
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
Bobbi Sheldon
Aug 14, 2015 Bobbi Sheldon rated it it was amazing
Lovely story. Makes me want to travel Africa.
Sep 25, 2015 Esther rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-a-copy, africa
The most touching, interesting and important part of the story is the Ugandan girl Esther, abducted together with 138 of her fellow student girls from a catholic school in the North of Uganda (the parallel of this real-life event of 1996 to what is happening these days in Nigeria seems striking, even though the LRA in Uganda has not been motivated by any particular religion). 109 of these girls were returned upon the intervention of a nun of the school, but 30 had to stay with the LRA rebels, Es ...more
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
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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.” 8 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.” 1 likes
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