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An electric debut novel about love, addiction, and loss; the story of two girls and the feral year that will cost one her life, and define the other’s for decades

Everything about fifteen-year-old Cat’s new town in rural Michigan is lonely and off-kilter, until she meets her neighbor, the manic, beautiful, pill-popping Marlena. Cat, inexperienced and desperate for connection, is quickly lured into Marlena’s orbit by little more than an arched eyebrow and a shake of white-blond hair. As the two girls turn the untamed landscape of their desolate small town into a kind of playground, Cat catalogues a litany of firsts—first drink, first cigarette, first kiss—while Marlena’s habits harden and calcify. Within the year, Marlena is dead, drowned in six inches of icy water in the woods nearby. Now, decades later, when a ghost from that pivotal year surfaces unexpectedly, Cat must try to forgive herself and move on, even as the memory of Marlena keeps her tangled in the past.

Alive with an urgent, unshakable tenderness, Julie Buntin’s Marlena is an unforgettable look at the people who shape us beyond reason and the ways it might be possible to pull oneself back from the brink.

Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:288 pages
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    Marlena Reviews

  • Emily May
    Mar 28, 2017

    Normally I start my reviews with a quote; a nice little taster of what to expect. But with Marlena it was impossible to isolate just a sentence or two. I copied down whole paragraphs that became extra...

  • Pouting Always
    Mar 13, 2017

    Ok so I kept seeing everyone talking about netgalley and I am such an unrestrained glutton for books that I was obviously had to sign up to get to read books for free early, and so this was the first ...

  • Larry H
    Feb 22, 2017

    If you're a fan of The Wallflowers' music, maybe you'll find yourself singing this song while reading Julie Buntin's Marlena : (Not because of any particular plot point ...

  • Suzanne Leopold
    Mar 05, 2017

    Cat and her brother Jimmy relocate with their mother to a rural town in Northern Michigan. With her parents recent divorce she is no longer able to attend her private boarding school. She feels very i...

  • Adam Dalva
    Apr 27, 2017

    Extraordinarily well-written book that tells the story of a doomed friendship between teenage girls. Shades of WHO WILL RUN THE FROG HOSPITAL? (less funny but significantly more wrenching and therefor...

  • Diane S ?
    Apr 11, 2017

    '3.5 Cat is in her thirties, has a drinking problem and is trying to save a valued relationship, when she receives a phone call from someone she hasn't seen since he was a child. This takes her back t...

  • ?Karen
    Apr 28, 2017

    During our formative teen years, it's highly possible that one year out of all others will remain with us and shape our lives for better or worse. Cat's year is her fifteenth, having just moved to Nor...

  • Irene
    Oct 28, 2016

    I won this book as a GR Give-Away. The narrator of this novel is a functioning alcoholic in her mid-30s who is recalling a pivotal period 20 years earlier that set her on a downward spiral. During her...

  • Tooter
    May 20, 2017

    4 Stars...

  • Chloe Caldwell
    May 04, 2016

    Marlena is a beautiful and tragic story of friendship, addiction, loneliness, family, and poverty. Julie Buntin was able to put words to sentiments I've felt and have never been able to articulate. A ...