Those Girls: A Novel, by Chevy Stevens

For me this was an intense book and a little hard to read. A few of the characters have a level of cruelty that’s more than a little tough to take.

The book is about the three Campbell sisters, living in a small rural town in western Canada. They are all in their teens and live in a rental on a ranch. Their mother is dead and their father works in the Alberta oil fields, leaving them a little money to live on and the rest they collect by working on the ranch. One night the father comes back home from his long-distance job drunk, which is common for him. He begins beating one of the sisters, the others step in to protect her and, as the blurbs say, “things get out of hand.” (No spoilers here.)

The sisters decide to escape to Vancouver, BC, to start new lives but their truck breaks down. Two brothers offer to help fix the truck and offer them work on the family ranch. But as things develop it’s obvious that the brothers have more than charity on their minds. The sisters are held captive and repeatedly raped. When they’re finally able to escape they manage to make it to Vancouver but one sister is pregnant.

Jump ahead several years and the daughter born to the pregnant sister is now in her teens. While visiting one of the aunts the aunt is assaulted by a man and the event reopens the trauma of decades before. The aunt decides to head back to the small town where the sisters were raped for revenge and the teen sneaks away from her mother to try to follow the aunt and bring her home.

The sisters and the daughter have to face a series of truly despicable men. There are some heroes, too, but the experience of the sisters with their father, various foster homes, and their shared rape hit hard and the writer doesn’t leave much room for the reader to catch breath before the next horrific thing happens. The book should probably come with trigger warnings on the cover because I’m an older male and even I felt a bit assaulted by the whole experience of the book. It’s not a book that celebrates the evil it tells about and it’s not salacious, but it’s a damn hard road following these women through the pain of nearly 20 years. I’ll say that the characters are well-formed and the writer is able to maintain tension for amazingly long stretches but it’s not going to be a book for everyone.