Friendship and families both provoke powerful emotions, particularly for women. Molly, the debut novel by Nancy J. Jones, explores how two young girls, Becky and Molly, are both influenced by their friendship and their family relationships. Set in a small town in Illinois during the 1940’s, the author debunks the illusion that life was innocent in post- war middle America. Jones is a Nabokov scholar and intersperses elements of his novel, Lolita, skillfully within this story. Both those who have read Lolita as well as those who have not can enjoy the resulting novel.
The friendship of Becky and Molly is fraught with sexual overtones from the onset. Becky, the more introspective of the two, provides the voice of the narrator. Though retrospective introspection, Becky examines her friendship with Molly from the point of view of a woman in her sixties. As Becky reflects upon her life, the reader learns that the roots of this pairing began the first day of school. Molly had a more adventuresome sprit than Becky, but their personalities complemented each other. However, as they grew older, life changed, and the two girls were finally forced to separate when Molly’s mother moves herself and Molly to the East Coast.
It’s at this point where the girls’ lives diverge, leaving the reader to know Molly’s fate only through the eyes of her friend as she recalls Molly’s life after the two girls parted company. Through her narrator, the author weaves uses elements such as journals and letters to give Becky the vehicle to share Molly’s life with the reader. We learn how Molly deals with the death of her mother and her unusual relationship with her new stepfather. Molly, in an attempt to mirror her own mother, uses her sexuality to make her way in the world, while Becky hides her feelings. Although a story of an unusual friendship, it is also about choices that individuals will face in their lives, and the impact these choices can have on a person’s future.
Molly is a well-written novel, but the appeal of this particular work may be limited to those who are seeking introspective prose. The focus of this work is on the mental state, relative to the time period, of the two young women. The situations and the descriptions of Molly’s life after she has left the Midwest could make this a difficult novel to read. I would recommend this work for those who are seeking a thought-provoking look into the minds of two individuals as they grow up in the 1940s.