Characters like Percy are easy to admire. The type of characters that overcome adversity and are able to make themselves a better life despite their upbringing while everyone around them fails. Percy has life going against her but at the end I knew she was going to be okay.
Percy has the task of watching out for her meth head Mama so when Mama doesn’t come home for a couple days, Percy drives to the farm house occupied by meth dealer Shelton Potter. She doesn’t find her Mama but finds Shelton and his girlfriend passed out in the living room, a decaying dog in an upstairs bedroom, and a baby crying in her bassinet beside the open window. And when you find a neglected baby in a known meth house being snowed on by the blizzard blowing through the open window, I hope you have the balls like Percy and get the hell out of the hills with the baby stuffed in your sweatshirt.
Naturally it’s not easy getting out of the hills and down to the hospital but Percy never gives up. Not with Shelton and his goons tracking her, not when Portis is killed (he’s helping her get to the hospital), not when she finds her Mama in a cookhouse but her Mama is delusional and tries to take the baby, not when Shelton finds her in said cookhouse. Throughout it all, Percy prevails and gets Jenna to the hospital.
Shelton Potter is an idiot of a drug dealer. His uncle runs the finances of the business and Shelton smokes more product than he moves. Mulhauser gives Shelton a few chapters in his point of view. I enjoy when authors do this because it helps to flesh out characters. If Mulhauser hadn’t let me into Shelton’s head. I would still think him to be a no good hillbilly drug dealer. Now I understand where Shelton’s rage comes from, how he feels about his girlfriend and her baby, how he feels about himself. It makes the end of Shelton’s story line all the more tragic.
Only one thing bothered me throughout Sweetgirl. Mulhauser used very sophisticated dialogue with each character, but these are supposed to be hill country people. Percy is a 16 year old high school dropout, Portis was an alcoholic who didn’t stop drinking throughout the whole escapade, and Shelton was a meth head who kept inhaling nitrous and kept getting sidetracked from the missing baby dilemma. Mulhauser’s vocabulary didn’t bother me when it came to the narrative but when these characters who are uneducated and intoxicated were talking like they were sitting around an Ivy League classroom, it pulled me out of the action. It was too juxtaposed and sounded fake. That being said, it was an enjoyable read. I was rooting for Percy the whole time and when the book ended with a classic “happy ending,” it didn’t bother me in the least.
By: Emily Coleman