Review: The Wandering Nature of Us Girls

Reviewed by primoz2500

Author: Frankie McMillan. Reviewer: Erica Stretton. In the small stories of The Wandering Nature of Us Girls, Frankie McMillan balances transgression and wit, showing a cast of unmoored characters with her signature warmth and compassion. August 2022 release

Frankie McMillan’s girls don’t just wander; they escape, they ‘run like old firemen startled from sleep by the ringing of bells,’ they take risks ‘she climbs to the highest branch and sits there quietly, the bow across her knee’ and most of all they embrace wildness. Water weaves through the collection, bringing together stories that don’t otherwise collide, accentuating the danger hovering in the girls’ environment.  

A total of 57 pieces in five sections comprise this substantial collection. Some stories veer deliberately toward unbelievability - ‘our son has turned into a stag, fine, he clamours for his own path, fine’ and are drawn back by the poignant human and family bonds throughout ‘we raised our hands in the air, it was a stage, we explained, yes, just a stage our son was going through.’

Visceral details, reflective of the emotion and stakes in each piece, resound. In Unripe Fruit, the daughter observes as her mother’s furtive, abortive illness plays out.  This is mirrored in the family’s pride and joy with strawberries going from from ‘big and sweet,’ never to be touched unripe, to their angry extraction ‘still hard and unformed.’ The Wandering Nature of Us Girls is compelling, desperate and immersive, touching the reader’s heart, leaving them just a little bereft at the end of each piece.

Hawk-eyed girls explores the fear inherent in embracing a wild thing:

Us girls had eyes so sharp that from an upstairs window

we could see a snail’s antlers emerge, we could see blades

of grass bow down, we could see the dumb fuck thrushes

pecking at the snail’s shell, we could see that surrender

was not an option, we could see, even without turning

around, our mama in her swim suit, the way she threw

herself fearlessly into the ocean, the way she floated on her

back, not giving an inch to that water, not giving a tick for

the tides, not caring less about the currents and when she

came out glistening and risen and nothing like the other

mamas who sat under sun umbrellas, flicking their bright

orange toenails in the sand, we saw our mama was a wild

woman, and if we didn’t keep an eye on her, every second

of the day and every second of the night, we might lose

her and that’s why we leaned wide from the window, poked

out our heads, testing the night air, listening to the waves,

the rumbling drift wood, all the broken things that landed

on the shore.

Reviewed by: Erica Stretton