A nameless young woman starts her freshman year of college with one goal in mind: survival.
Newly transplanted to the big city of Chicago, she is one of the rare few to leave her small working class town in Iowa, let alone for a prestigious university. She is not driven by academic ambition, nor is she a social butterfly. Her true gift is an ability to understand the needs of others, and to reflect back the version of themselves they wish to see, rendering herself invisible.
Deftly, she conceals her deeply troubled past—especially from her charismatic yuppie-in-the-making best friend and roommate. For a while, she assimilates, living a new life not in any way her own. But the mask she wears cannot hide her secrets forever, and at some point she will be truly seen, possibly for the first time in her life.
Set in the early 80s, against the backdrop of a city terrorized by the Tylenol Killer, a local psychopath rumored to be stuffing cyanide into drugstore meds, Silver Girl is a deftly psychological account of the nuances of sisterhood. Contrasting obsession and longing, need versus desire, Leslie Pietrzyk delves into the ways class and trauma are often enmeshed to dictate one’s sense of self, and how a single relationship can sometimes lead to redemption.
Cover art by Jennis Li Cheng Tien
Praise for Silver Girl
"SILVER GIRL is a blunt and piercing character study of a young woman making choices that are both understandable and unthinkably wrong; we watch helplessly as our unnamed narrator digs herself in deeper and deeper, sabotaging nearly every relationship in her life. Pietrzyk writes insightfully about female friendship, personal morality and accountability, unspooling an eminently compelling plot and delivering us, finally, to a redeeming moment of grace. "
—Carolyn Parkhurst , author of THE DOGS OF BABEL
"The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Leslie and her stories is the courage and ferocity of her women. Women who must negotiate a culture not of their own design and not of their own choosing. Women who have experienced tragedy and misfortune. Women who have made mistakes. Women who are honest in their testimony, resourceful in their lives, daring, not shy. "
—Robert Olmstead, author of FAR BRIGHT STAR
"They think she is a simple, well-mannered girl, quiet and helpful. But the reader has seen into her past, knows her uncle, her little sister, her father, and all that happened back in Iowa. She is anything but. A dark, intense novel on a hot subject: female friendship complicated by class and privilege. Very good."
"Leslie Pietrzyk’s haunting SILVER GIRL begins in 1980, with a nameless narrator starting her freshman year at a prestigious Chicago-area university. The narrator escaped her economically depressed Iowa hometown, but the emotional baggage of a grim childhood and dysfunctional family continue to weigh her down like the bulky, cheaply made trunk that holds her belongings... SILVER GIRL concludes with a surge of hope, like the spring thaw after an icebound Chicago winter."
—Meg Nola, Foreword Reviews
"In SILVER GIRL, Leslie Pietrzyk fearlessly explores the complex inner life of a young woman and her myriad complicated relationships with friends and sisters, while unearthing secrets about her traumatic past. Pietrzyk treats her characters with incredible empathy and tenderness, producing a deeply affecting novel about the terrible things we ask our young women to endure."
—Mandy Berman, author of PERENNIALS
"Unflinching, thoughtful, and sharp. SILVER GIRL is the story I've been waiting to read: complicated women navigating life with grit and grace. From small town Iowa to Chicago, rural to urban, haves to have-nots, SILVER GIRL delivers a poignant truth about how relationships and regret shape our definitions of home."
—Melissa Scholes Young, author of FLOOD
"The latest from Pietrzyk (Pears on a Willow Tree) is a profound, mesmerizing, and disturbing novel that delves into the vagaries of college relationships and how the social-financial stratum one is born into reverberates through one’s life."
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"Pietrzyk’s writing is dense and intense as readers spend the book in her main character’s head, but her story is realistic and never sensational, even with the ripped-from-the-headlines 1982 Tylenol murders providing a backdrop and also personally affecting the girls. Readers who wished that Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep (2005) was darker should try SILVER GIRL."
—Kathy Sexton, Booklist
"SILVER GIRL is an act of mesmerism, of misdirection; it appears slight and forgettable, but turns out to have more substance and permanence than half the novels on a given bookshelf."
—Katharine Coldiron Mason, The Millions