Thursday, August 4, 2016

Heather Young's "The Lost Girls"

After a decade practicing law and another raising kids, Heather Young decided to finally write the novel she’d always talked about writing. She holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars, and is an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop and the Tin House Writers Workshop, all of which helped her stop writing like a lawyer. She lives in Mill Valley, California, with her husband and two teenaged children. When she’s not writing she’s biking, hiking, neglecting potted plants, and reading books by other people that she wishes she’d written.

Here Young dreamcasts an adaptation of The Lost Girls, her debut novel:
Whenever my friends ask, “So when’s your book going to be a movie?” I laugh and shake my head. “Not gonna be a movie,” I say. I can’t imagine how a screenwriter could turn my book, with its interwoven narratives set sixty years apart, into a coherent, two-hour story. It took me six years, 352 pages, and a Beautiful-Mind-level whiteboard to fit it all together, and it still feels like the baling wire and safety pins will fall out at any minute and spill the whole mess onto the floor. To put it bluntly, it just doesn’t seem like movie material.

But…what if, say, Reese Witherspoon were to read The Lost Girls? She loves turning literary novels into movies, and she did tell the Wall Street Journal she’s “on a crusade to find a dynamic, female character, whether she’s likable or not.” If there’s one thing The Lost Girls has plenty of, it’s dynamic, borderline-unlikeable female characters.

There’s Lucy, who as an 11-year-old in 1935 sells her loyalty at a horrible price that ruins three lives, then blames the whole situation on everyone but herself for the next six decades. She was dealing with some difficult shit, and she eventually comes to appreciate the enormity of what she did, but still -- she’s complicated, at the very least. She’d need to be played by a nuanced young actress who can be sympathetic even while doing questionable things, like Maisie Williams.

There’s also Justine, whose emotionally barren childhood made her a distant mother whose first instinct when things get rough is to run. Her emotional inaccessibility is poisoning her two young daughters…but maybe a new beginning at Lucy’s rundown, isolated lake house will give her the chance to grow, to heal, and to love. I think Reese herself would be a great choice for Justine, who finds her inner strength in the most unlikely of places.

Then there are the minor, but still pivotal, female characters. Lucy’s mother, imprisoned by her demons and unable to keep even the most basic of promises to her daughters, would be a great role for Cate Blanchett. Justine’s mother, whose narcissistic shell hides a vulnerable woman who’s spent her life running from the one thing that could make her happy, would be perfect for the talented character actress Dinah Lenney. Finally, there’s Lucy’s sister Lilith, a strong, proud girl longing to soar beyond her stifling family and small town, even if it means betraying the sister who loves her above all else. This would be the perfect role for an unknown talent with off-kilter, arresting looks and a commanding presence.

Hmm. After writing this, I think I’ll change my answer to that “when will the movie come out” question. From now on I’m just going to say, “whenever Reese Witherspoon reads it!”
Visit Heather Young's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Lost Girls.

Writers Read: Heather Young.

--Marshal Zeringue