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The Girl Factory: A Memoir

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It’s 1985 in a small factory town near Pittsburgh. Eight-year-old Karen’s parents are lifelong workers at the Anchor Glass plant, where one Saturday, an employee goes on a shooting spree, killing four supervisors, then himself. This event splits the young girl’s life open, and like her mother, she begins to seek comfort in obsessive rituals and superstitions.          This It’s 1985 in a small factory town near Pittsburgh. Eight-year-old Karen’s parents are lifelong workers at the Anchor Glass plant, where one Saturday, an employee goes on a shooting spree, killing four supervisors, then himself. This event splits the young girl’s life open, and like her mother, she begins to seek comfort in obsessive rituals and superstitions.          This beautifully evocative memoir chronicles the next fourteen years, as Karen moves through girlhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. It illuminates small-town factory life; explores a complicated mother-daughter bond; thoughtfully unfolds a smart, but insecure girl’s coming of age; achingly recounts her attempts to use sex to fit in; and ultimately uncovers the buried secret from her childhood—a medical file with an unbearable report.           The Girl Factory deftly travels the intersections of memory and origin. Karen’s body remembers details her mind has tried to control. As the young woman mines her interior landscape for answers, certain questions persist. Where does memory live—in the body or the mind? And can you rewrite the story of your past? 


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It’s 1985 in a small factory town near Pittsburgh. Eight-year-old Karen’s parents are lifelong workers at the Anchor Glass plant, where one Saturday, an employee goes on a shooting spree, killing four supervisors, then himself. This event splits the young girl’s life open, and like her mother, she begins to seek comfort in obsessive rituals and superstitions.          This It’s 1985 in a small factory town near Pittsburgh. Eight-year-old Karen’s parents are lifelong workers at the Anchor Glass plant, where one Saturday, an employee goes on a shooting spree, killing four supervisors, then himself. This event splits the young girl’s life open, and like her mother, she begins to seek comfort in obsessive rituals and superstitions.          This beautifully evocative memoir chronicles the next fourteen years, as Karen moves through girlhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. It illuminates small-town factory life; explores a complicated mother-daughter bond; thoughtfully unfolds a smart, but insecure girl’s coming of age; achingly recounts her attempts to use sex to fit in; and ultimately uncovers the buried secret from her childhood—a medical file with an unbearable report.           The Girl Factory deftly travels the intersections of memory and origin. Karen’s body remembers details her mind has tried to control. As the young woman mines her interior landscape for answers, certain questions persist. Where does memory live—in the body or the mind? And can you rewrite the story of your past? 

30 review for The Girl Factory: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sherrie

    I received an ARC of The Girl Factory through the Goodreads Giveaways program. The Girl Factory details the life of Karen Dietrich as she maneuvers her way through various friendships and a complicated mother daughter bond. Although, Karen is a precocious child and highly intelligent, she struggles after elementary school with building and maintaining relationships. Karen also seems to look for validation from others and seeks out friends who are at times a bad influence. When a long buried fami I received an ARC of The Girl Factory through the Goodreads Giveaways program. The Girl Factory details the life of Karen Dietrich as she maneuvers her way through various friendships and a complicated mother daughter bond. Although, Karen is a precocious child and highly intelligent, she struggles after elementary school with building and maintaining relationships. Karen also seems to look for validation from others and seeks out friends who are at times a bad influence. When a long buried family secret is revealed in chapter 25 all the pieces come together and the reader can see the cause of much of the author's behavior. The Girl Factory was a dark and powerfully written memoir which reveals several painful and intimate events in her life. I enjoyed reading the book and applaud the courage it took to share her story. Well done!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Frank

    I enjoyed reading The Girl Factory through Kindle. I finished it in 4 evenings, putting my homework aside because I kept wanting to return to the book. I like the cultural references, which those of us born in the mid to late 70s will all relate to. I also like the smooth and calm tone of the words and sentences. The growing pains and nuances of the girl childhood experience brought to life in the book, though each of us have a unique load of discomforts and joys, create a mirror for readers to I enjoyed reading The Girl Factory through Kindle. I finished it in 4 evenings, putting my homework aside because I kept wanting to return to the book. I like the cultural references, which those of us born in the mid to late 70s will all relate to. I also like the smooth and calm tone of the words and sentences. The growing pains and nuances of the girl childhood experience brought to life in the book, though each of us have a unique load of discomforts and joys, create a mirror for readers to see their own childhood selves. We take the walk with the narrator and rediscover ourselves at the same time.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    Could you write the story of your life? Your REAL life? Not moralized. Not white-washed. Frank. Unflinching. Could you do it? Could you write the story without cutting out the dark things that you felt and thought and did? Could you do it and not hold back? This is what Karen Dietrich does in her memoir The Girl Factory. Set in Connellsville, PA from 1985 through the late 90s, this book is an exquisite description of how girls often become who they become as women. Karen is the youngest of three Could you write the story of your life? Your REAL life? Not moralized. Not white-washed. Frank. Unflinching. Could you do it? Could you write the story without cutting out the dark things that you felt and thought and did? Could you do it and not hold back? This is what Karen Dietrich does in her memoir The Girl Factory. Set in Connellsville, PA from 1985 through the late 90s, this book is an exquisite description of how girls often become who they become as women. Karen is the youngest of three sisters and has a prickly relationship with her mother and father. Her parents work at Anchor, a plant that made glass bottles and was true to its name…serving as a financial anchor in this small town. Karen worries about everything and has developed obsessive-compulsive tendencies to attempt to control her world. When a man goes to the Anchor plant and kills four supervisors before taking his own life, Karen’s world is forever changed. Though her parents weren’t there when it happened and the incident really isn’t much more than a blip in the storyline, reflecting on this incident triggers something in Karen. She begins to put together the pieces of her life in her mind and to reflect on why she is the way she is. Though Karen’s words were beautifully crafted, it was not always an easy read for me. Before picking this book up, I had already learned that Karen was only two years behind me in school. I didn’t know her, but I knew her older sister (Linda, in the book…but her real name has been changed). “Linda” and I were in chorus, chamber ensemble, and several musicals together. It was difficult to read this knowing that I knew the real person. It felt like I was prying into her personal life, spying on her most vulnerable moments. Then, there’s the sudden realizations I had as I was reading. I knew “Julie Walls” who picked on Karen in elementary school. Again, the name is changed, but the information about her is a dead giveaway. I went to the same junior high and immediately recognized every single teacher mentioned. More than that, I experienced much of what Karen experienced from her classmates. Picked on for not looking a certain way or acting a certain way. Feeling ostracized because your academic skills made you somewhat of a freak. Being in love with words because there was no hope for you to be in love with a boy. Ultimately, this book allows Karen to achieve something her mother apparently was never able to achieve. By exposing the wounds of her childhood, Karen is able to face the reality of her injuries, allow them to air out, to heal. She doesn’t simply slap on a band-aid instead of examining the root of the problem (something Karen’s mother literally does when Linda’s thumb-picking leaves her skin raw and bleeding). I can’t imagine what it would be like to write a book this honest and some of the reactions of people who were much closer to this situation than I are floating back to me. But this is a book that has to be written, not only to heal the wounds in ONE girl’s life, but to show other little girls that the wounds they carry aren’t unique.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cherie R

    UGH!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    I have a book review for you... just a warning... this is NOT a good review ... This is My very first time giving a one star review, I believed that if you can write and publish a book then you deserve at least 3 stars... Well not this book. I grew up in the area that the Author writes about I went to the same Jr, and Sr, High. I honestly thought this book was going to be about the aftermath of one of the Most horrific shootings to happen where I grew up.. Its Not! at all.. Oh she does "pepper" I have a book review for you... just a warning... this is NOT a good review ... This is My very first time giving a one star review, I believed that if you can write and publish a book then you deserve at least 3 stars... Well not this book. I grew up in the area that the Author writes about I went to the same Jr, and Sr, High. I honestly thought this book was going to be about the aftermath of one of the Most horrific shootings to happen where I grew up.. Its Not! at all.. Oh she does "pepper" the story with what took place that day in 1985, but you really learn nothing about the aftermath. What we learn is that Karen is from a what would be considered in Connellsville a "well to do family" Both Parents working at the factory. Nice House, built in pool ( That was RARE) ,Ms. Dietrich. Contradicts herself many many times.. she says her mother doesn't like to be around children.. but then writes about her and her sister sleeping with their mother when their father works nights, She portrays her Mother as a Cold , unfeeling Mother, But then her Mother tells her shes perfect and to me her Mother seems so sad... why is she sad... we never find out for sure..... Karen writes she snoops and is very nosy , goes thru everyone's things and yet NEVER discovers some papers that could change her life until she is in her late teens.. and yet she NEVER brings up these papers to her family. And when she claims to go back to get them later they were gone.. Wouldn't you at that age keep papers that pertained to YOU and confront your parents about them? She writes about being picked on in school.. and yet she continues to tell us through the book how smart she is ..over... and over.. and over.. we get it Karen you are smart.. ... did she do that in school? she acts like she never had ANYONE... and she writes about her and her friend did this... her and another friend did that.. she made the JV cheer squad... then quit.. she had a boyfriend thru Junior and Sr, year... and then we find out she even had a Subaru..to drive while still in High School.. And yet she whines and whines and whines.. you didn't have a real Christmas tree but yet you had a tree.. a beautiful tree.. but YOU didn't like it sooo that was your Mother's fault? so.. now that you are ALL GROWN UP get your own damn tree! I'm sorry this Lady really pissed me off the way she put down my town and what got me most was how she described the people from Dunbar coming into the store where she worked.. Gee Karen aren't you judging just like you claimed you were.. Totally disliked this book .. and would NOT recommend it to ANYONE unless you like whiny people who blame everyone for their own misery! The only reason I am giving this a star at all is because I Know I couldn't write a book... but If I could it sure wouldn't be Whiny like this one!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Karyl

    As a little girl in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, Karen grew up in a middle-class home, the younger daughter of two people who worked in the Anchor glass making plant nearby. And in 1985, the year she was 8, a man shot and killed four Anchor supervisors before turning the gun on himself. That event marked and scarred everyone in the town, including Karen and her family. Or at least that's the way the book is marketed. In reality, there's not a whole lot about the shooting and even less about the a As a little girl in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, Karen grew up in a middle-class home, the younger daughter of two people who worked in the Anchor glass making plant nearby. And in 1985, the year she was 8, a man shot and killed four Anchor supervisors before turning the gun on himself. That event marked and scarred everyone in the town, including Karen and her family. Or at least that's the way the book is marketed. In reality, there's not a whole lot about the shooting and even less about the aftermath. I don't really mind, however, as Ms Dietrich's own memoirs are quite interesting on their own. But the false marketing, as it were, is somewhat irritating. That said, this book is, in a way, quite sad. Dietrich is very in tune with her younger self, and is very capable of letting her younger self's voice shine through, which can be difficult for an adult far removed in years to do. She is very sexually precocious in some ways, which can be disturbing to read about, but it is understandable, given the medical report she finds as a teen. Her relationship with her mother is just sad; her mother is so cold and so unreachable, much preferring to clean and to doll herself up, than to give her girls the attention they need. The way in which she always wanted to make their family into an "us vs. them," Karen and her mother against her sister and her father, was very sad. Mothers just aren't supposed to act that way. The thing that really let me down about this book is I felt that Dietrich kept making the same mistakes over and over again, and it seemed as though she knew she was making a bad decision (like continuing to date John Banks) and did it anyhow. I enjoyed the way in which Dietrich's love for words shines through her prose, and her writing is quite lyrical and fascinating. And because she's just two years older than I am, I loved all the references to music that reminded me of my childhood and teenage years. I just wanted *more* from her memoirs, something that felt a little more redeeming.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jpavalock

    Karen did grow up in privilege by most standards. Connellsville was working class, factory, coal mines and retail. People tried to provide everything that was necessary and some of the luxuries for their family. It was 1952 when we got our first television and we still had a party phone line, but we did have a phone! I had left by the '80's, and came to Texas. My Aunt was still living and I visited in 1984. Things had really changed. Most of downtown was empty of stores or any kind of income pr Karen did grow up in privilege by most standards. Connellsville was working class, factory, coal mines and retail. People tried to provide everything that was necessary and some of the luxuries for their family. It was 1952 when we got our first television and we still had a party phone line, but we did have a phone! I had left by the '80's, and came to Texas. My Aunt was still living and I visited in 1984. Things had really changed. Most of downtown was empty of stores or any kind of income producing business. Karen's parents made a good living and provided well for her and her sisters. And yet, they were very troubled and unhappy because of dark secrets that no one could or would talk about. I get the impression that Karen and Linda were left to themselves on many occasions just at the time when they needed supervision most. Karen does come off whiney and un appreciative. She does need to tell her readers how very smart she is and how freely she explored her sexuality!! There is no faith or church life that I can find in this book. Since I read this, America has had two more incidents of violence, another shooting here in Texas at Ft. Hood, and just this week a stabbing in Murraysville, just outside of Pittsburgh! These acts have really traumatized our children beyond what I as a child experienced by even the "duck & cover" drills in the '50's!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Erin Forson

    Dietrich details her experience growing up in Pennsylvania in a factory town with parents who are lifelong Anchor Glass Factory employees. I'm not a prude, but I was a little disturbed by the early obsession the author has with sexuality and her body in the memior. Of course, the clues are there for anyone with some common sense to see that this obsession was one born of unusual events and is not normal in one so young. Sadly, the explantation for Dietrich's behavior comes to light very late in Dietrich details her experience growing up in Pennsylvania in a factory town with parents who are lifelong Anchor Glass Factory employees. I'm not a prude, but I was a little disturbed by the early obsession the author has with sexuality and her body in the memior. Of course, the clues are there for anyone with some common sense to see that this obsession was one born of unusual events and is not normal in one so young. Sadly, the explantation for Dietrich's behavior comes to light very late in the memoir, and little is done to evaluate the author's development after the discovery. In fact, I would argue that very little change happens in light of this revelation and that was somewhat of a disappointment. A child of lifelong factory workers myself, I did feel the representation of the humdrum life was quite acccurate, although this family seemed to be a bit more well-to-do than my own. Perhaps identifying with Dietrich is one reason I really didn't enjoy the memoir very much. Overall, it was just too melancholy. I much prefer a memoir like Jeannette Walls The Glass Castle where, despite hardships, or perhaps because of them, the character changes and develops for the better.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chrissy

    I'm going to start out this review with a disclaimer: the author of this book was my college room mate during my senior year, her junior year. Having said that (and growing up in Pittsburgh), I think I had a different perspective on the book than the average reader. I'd be reading, and there'd be a mention of a favorite stuffed animal, and I'd remember it in our dorm room. Or there'd be a mention of a favorite radio station, which was the same station I had listened to as a child. So those refer I'm going to start out this review with a disclaimer: the author of this book was my college room mate during my senior year, her junior year. Having said that (and growing up in Pittsburgh), I think I had a different perspective on the book than the average reader. I'd be reading, and there'd be a mention of a favorite stuffed animal, and I'd remember it in our dorm room. Or there'd be a mention of a favorite radio station, which was the same station I had listened to as a child. So those references, while jarring at first, made me smile. And feel nostalgic. And it was a very odd feeling while reading, because I had seen pictures of the author when she was young, and I remember her mother...normally when I read I conjure up my own ideas of what people and places look like, but I didn't need to here, because I already KNEW. That's not to say that other folks who DON'T know the author won't enjoy this book. Karen's writing is very lyrical and haunting, and the story sticks with you even after it's over. Anyone who grew up feeling lonely, feeling like an outcast, can relate to this book. Highly recommend!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

    This coming-of-age story doesn't make loud pronouncements; it reveals itself quietly, intimately, and with an honesty that is as sharp and clear as the glass that ever-present in Dietrich's childhood. Dietrich finds the voice of her younger self, listens, and then lets her speak. The adult Karen, the writer, does not patronize her young narrator. Instead she crafts a narrative that is plainspoken, built upon the events we see in girls' lives, as well as those hidden from public view. She dots th This coming-of-age story doesn't make loud pronouncements; it reveals itself quietly, intimately, and with an honesty that is as sharp and clear as the glass that ever-present in Dietrich's childhood. Dietrich finds the voice of her younger self, listens, and then lets her speak. The adult Karen, the writer, does not patronize her young narrator. Instead she crafts a narrative that is plainspoken, built upon the events we see in girls' lives, as well as those hidden from public view. She dots the journey with signposts from the 80s and 90s that will have readers of a certain age (or at least this reader) nodding with nostalgia. This story of an "outsider" reaches out to all of us who wore that label (and others) but refused to be defined by it. Instead of feeling sad (and some of what happens in this book is quite upsetting), the reader never loses this sense of kinship and knows the younger Karen will find a way to herself.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    Floored. I am absolutely floored by this gorgeous slow-boil memoir of a young woman finding her way through family neuroses and secrets, and the winding labyrinth of adolescence/young adulthood we all must travel. Dietrich turns the horrors of her journey into poetry. I envy every page of this book, as a writer, and as a human being looking for connection in a sometimes cruel, sometimes seemingly heartless world. This book is a light--a very bright one--that illuminates much, yet allows for the Floored. I am absolutely floored by this gorgeous slow-boil memoir of a young woman finding her way through family neuroses and secrets, and the winding labyrinth of adolescence/young adulthood we all must travel. Dietrich turns the horrors of her journey into poetry. I envy every page of this book, as a writer, and as a human being looking for connection in a sometimes cruel, sometimes seemingly heartless world. This book is a light--a very bright one--that illuminates much, yet allows for the reader to live parallel to the narrator, reminding us of our own struggles without clocking us over the head or nudging us too hard into feeling the power of family, love, and connection. Beautiful! Bravo!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I, along with other members of my book club, met the author at an event before the release of the memoir. We then read it for book club. Many of the references in the book are familiar since I grew up and live locally. There was a lot of reading between the lines to try to piece together what happened to Karen. People in my book club had different impressions on who exactly molested Karen. Though many in my book club thought Karen's uncle molested her, and I think he may have, I also think her m I, along with other members of my book club, met the author at an event before the release of the memoir. We then read it for book club. Many of the references in the book are familiar since I grew up and live locally. There was a lot of reading between the lines to try to piece together what happened to Karen. People in my book club had different impressions on who exactly molested Karen. Though many in my book club thought Karen's uncle molested her, and I think he may have, I also think her mother molested her. The book leaves you a bit unsatisfied but often so does life.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    Gave this novel about 40 pages, but I just couldn't concentrate, because I could never figure out what STORY she was telling. Dietrich's--admittedly lovely--descriptions jump all over the place, and while that may be the character's personality and/or way of narrating, it frustrated me to never know where the narrative was headed. There are plenty more books out there I'd like to read, so this one has been put aside. Gave this novel about 40 pages, but I just couldn't concentrate, because I could never figure out what STORY she was telling. Dietrich's--admittedly lovely--descriptions jump all over the place, and while that may be the character's personality and/or way of narrating, it frustrated me to never know where the narrative was headed. There are plenty more books out there I'd like to read, so this one has been put aside.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Angelina

    This book was on again - off again. There were parts that really started to pull you in, but then automatically dropped off. The author did a great job describing her thoughts and emotions, but there was a lot of "hinting" of things and much speculation required by the reader, thus made you feel unsatisfied at the end. This book was on again - off again. There were parts that really started to pull you in, but then automatically dropped off. The author did a great job describing her thoughts and emotions, but there was a lot of "hinting" of things and much speculation required by the reader, thus made you feel unsatisfied at the end.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Rearigh

    I read this for my book club, and I hated it. There was no story line to follow, and there was no format of the book. Everything was all over the place, I couldn't keep it straight. The book just ended with no type of conclusion, I was looking for lost pages. Karen eludes to horrors of her childhood but doesn't divulge deeper into them, which is the point of a memoir. She really does a disservice to memoirs in her lack of details and lack of consistency. I read this for my book club, and I hated it. There was no story line to follow, and there was no format of the book. Everything was all over the place, I couldn't keep it straight. The book just ended with no type of conclusion, I was looking for lost pages. Karen eludes to horrors of her childhood but doesn't divulge deeper into them, which is the point of a memoir. She really does a disservice to memoirs in her lack of details and lack of consistency.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Maria Rubin

    I’ll start my review by saying literature is subjective. A book that is loved by one person can make no sense or bring no enjoyment to another. This book got some wonderful reviews but I can’t agree. It’s a memoir that’s just sad and unfortunately could have been written by thousands of women reflecting on their upbringing and writing a book about it. I really hope the author has been able to rewrite her story and reconcile things that made her feel so bad about herself growing up.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Cox

    No story to it. Jumps around quite a bit. Wanted to quit halfway through but ended up finishing it. A surprise near the end leaves you hanging.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    As a child of the ’70s and ’80s growing up in Connellsville, PA, a working-class town located 57 miles south of Pittsburgh, Karen’s life is fairly predictable. Both of her parents work different shifts at Anchor Glass, a local bottle factory in town. They’re the proverbial ships passing in the night; their daughters Karen and Linda are latchkey children during an era when such arrangements were not only acceptable but very much the norm. In March 1985, the Anchor Glass plant was the scene of a ma As a child of the ’70s and ’80s growing up in Connellsville, PA, a working-class town located 57 miles south of Pittsburgh, Karen’s life is fairly predictable. Both of her parents work different shifts at Anchor Glass, a local bottle factory in town. They’re the proverbial ships passing in the night; their daughters Karen and Linda are latchkey children during an era when such arrangements were not only acceptable but very much the norm. In March 1985, the Anchor Glass plant was the scene of a mass shooting by a disgruntled former employee who killed several colleagues of Karen’s parents. The incident devastated and shook the town, and although Ms. Dietrich’s parents were not at the plant at the time of the murders, it was certainly a traumatic incident. A sidenote: the book jacket and promotional copy give the impression that the killings and the aftermath are the focus of this memoir. It is not. In fact, it’s almost downplayed. I’m somewhat perplexed by that, actually; I didn’t live in the Pittsburgh area during that timeframe and I don’t remember any news coverage of this incident – probably because March 1985 was pretty damn traumatic in my own life. So let’s just leave it at this: I sincerely hope that the murder of four people wasn’t used as a marketing ploy to sell some books. Because the reality is that The Girl Factory works perfectly fine – and then some – on its own as a coming-of-age memoir about Karen’s relationship with her emotionally cold and ultra-superstitious mother, the changing dynamics of families over time and generations, and the power of unspoken truths on our lives. “Some stories belong to my mother, if it’s possible to own a story, to carry it inside a small case you wear, perhaps one that fits inside your shoe, invisible to most people. She only takes the stories out of the case for me, not Linda, not my father, not the women she talks to on the phone. Just me. Sometimes, I feel like the stories were written just for me, so that maybe I can carry a small case of my own stories some day, so I will remember the shape of suffering.” (pg. 12) If Karen needs a reminder of the shape of suffering, all she needs to do is pick up her book. That’s not meant as an insult. Quite the opposite, actually. It’s incredibly well-written (Ms. Dietrich nails the ’80s references, even some that I had forgotten) but the sadness that comes through every page can seem overwhelming. There’s so much lost here, so very, very much. But so much to gain, on the reader’s part. I listened to this on audio, which was an excellent choice. Cassandra Campbell is one of the best audiobook narrators (and one of my favorites) and she doesn’t disappoint with The Girl Factory.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I know the landscape of Karen Dietrich's memoir, The Girl Factory. It's a small factory town in rural Pennsylvania. It's a household where parents work different shifts at the local factory -- a mother who works days, while the father takes the "Hoot Owl" (A term used by my family for the night shift -- also called The Graveyard Shift). It's a house filled with pets and superstition and complicated love. Certainly, it was this familiar landscape that drew me into The Girl Factory, a memoir about I know the landscape of Karen Dietrich's memoir, The Girl Factory. It's a small factory town in rural Pennsylvania. It's a household where parents work different shifts at the local factory -- a mother who works days, while the father takes the "Hoot Owl" (A term used by my family for the night shift -- also called The Graveyard Shift). It's a house filled with pets and superstition and complicated love. Certainly, it was this familiar landscape that drew me into The Girl Factory, a memoir about a young girl growing up in the 80's in Connellsville, Pennsylvania. But it was the lyrical language that made me stay. I knew Dietrich's work as a poet (and because we both attended the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg as undergraduates), but even I was surprised about how she was able to find poetic prose in a dusty and rusty small factory town, especially when the subjects found in her book lead to deeper dirt than what coats the physical surface. Dietrich starts her book in 1985, when an employer of the Anchor Glass plant (the factory where both of her parents work) goes on a shooting spree killing four supervisors and then himself. It's this moment, when the family finds out about the shooting, that Dietrich explains: "There are moments that separate before from after, minutes in time that freeze like a photograph, capture a flash that indicates change. I start to realize that everything I've lived so far has been the before. I don't know what the after will be." What follows as the "after" is a coming-of-age story about class issues and family relationships, a book that integrates the pop culture of the 80's and 90's, and a work that is able to explore even the darker findings of Dietrich's childhood without losing the lyrical grace of her poetic language.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    Wow! This young lady has grown into a certified word nerd, like me. She says: "I like words with more than one meaning. Petrified is an adjective that can mean converted into a stony substance or frightened so as unable to think or move. But there is a figurative meaning too- deprived of vitality or the capacity to change. We are all petrified in our own ways. We will all end up as fossils, our shapes eventually pressed into the ground and hardened." I am amazed at the eloquent way she spins a t Wow! This young lady has grown into a certified word nerd, like me. She says: "I like words with more than one meaning. Petrified is an adjective that can mean converted into a stony substance or frightened so as unable to think or move. But there is a figurative meaning too- deprived of vitality or the capacity to change. We are all petrified in our own ways. We will all end up as fossils, our shapes eventually pressed into the ground and hardened." I am amazed at the eloquent way she spins a tale that was not very easy to tell. I was definitely along for the ride. I couldn't put this book down. I have spent nearly fifteen years working in the factory that she speaks of and I grew up next door to it. My church is even mentioned in the book. I felt a connection not only because of the local references but because of the fact that we are human and have had many of the same experiences and feelings in our own coming of age. I will definitely be looking for more work from this author and am very glad that I purchased and read this one. Thank you, Mrs. Dietrich, for your honesty.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shelly Itkin

    This is the story of Karen who is eight year’s old at the start of the book and takes us up to her college graduation. She lives in a small town called Connellsville, Pennsylvania where both of her parents work for Anchor Glass but different shifts. Half of the town work there and aside from the mass shooting that occurred when Sonny flipped out not much happens in the town. Therefore I found the book rather slow reading. Karen is not especially pretty but is rather smart and she has some strange This is the story of Karen who is eight year’s old at the start of the book and takes us up to her college graduation. She lives in a small town called Connellsville, Pennsylvania where both of her parents work for Anchor Glass but different shifts. Half of the town work there and aside from the mass shooting that occurred when Sonny flipped out not much happens in the town. Therefore I found the book rather slow reading. Karen is not especially pretty but is rather smart and she has some strange relationships with her mom, who is kind of weird and her dad and sisters. We learn how she acts from puberty to adult hood. I found it a very slow read and not that riveting as to want me to continue to get to the end. It took me much longer then I expected to get thru the book. Sorry to say it is not one I would recommend.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Esme

    I expect to be excoriated by someone because I didn’t finish the book yet I wrote a review. The reason why I didn't finish was a mistake that I found very early on. She reports that Ted Bundy murdered two college students in Gainesville, Florida. What she did, likely, was conflate Ted Bundy with Danny Rolling. Ted Bundy murdered two women in Tallahassee and a girl in Lake City. Danny Rolling murdered his college-aged victims in Gainesville. Yes, nitpicky, but really shouldn’t her editor have cau I expect to be excoriated by someone because I didn’t finish the book yet I wrote a review. The reason why I didn't finish was a mistake that I found very early on. She reports that Ted Bundy murdered two college students in Gainesville, Florida. What she did, likely, was conflate Ted Bundy with Danny Rolling. Ted Bundy murdered two women in Tallahassee and a girl in Lake City. Danny Rolling murdered his college-aged victims in Gainesville. Yes, nitpicky, but really shouldn’t her editor have caught that mistake? I tried to continue with the book after that, but it was a case of, “Well if she got that detail wrong, what else did she get wrong?” I am also not a fan of the s-l-o-w progression of plot and the dreamy poetic language. I find it annoying rather than lovely.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    The book starts out good by telling us about Karen's parents who work at the Anchor Glass plant in Pittsburgh. There is a shooting at the plant. Then it kind of drifted off from there. Karen talks about growing up in Pittsburgh with her parents and how her and her mother seemed to be pitted against her other sibling and her dad. They have a lot of superstitions in the family that Karen tends to do also. Karen likes to think of things in her mind and is talking about words and numbers in her book. The book starts out good by telling us about Karen's parents who work at the Anchor Glass plant in Pittsburgh. There is a shooting at the plant. Then it kind of drifted off from there. Karen talks about growing up in Pittsburgh with her parents and how her and her mother seemed to be pitted against her other sibling and her dad. They have a lot of superstitions in the family that Karen tends to do also. Karen likes to think of things in her mind and is talking about words and numbers in her book. I thought it was okay, but it seemed to be just there. Not really going anywhere. If that makes sense to you. Later on, late in the book she tells why she seems to talk a lot about her sexual thoughts. If I tell you here it would give away the book. So, I will leave it at that.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Bennett

    Love the girl factory/glass factory analogy. Interesting look at how a girl who's mother is mentally ill (seems to be manic-depressive)copes with it through obsessive-compulsiveness. Or so it seems until part way through the question of child abuse/incest is raised (and never clearly answered.) Karen sees herself--and is teased--for being ugly, hairly, a loner although in middle school she is a cheerleader and in high school, a flag girl. It definitely raises lots of questions that keep one thin Love the girl factory/glass factory analogy. Interesting look at how a girl who's mother is mentally ill (seems to be manic-depressive)copes with it through obsessive-compulsiveness. Or so it seems until part way through the question of child abuse/incest is raised (and never clearly answered.) Karen sees herself--and is teased--for being ugly, hairly, a loner although in middle school she is a cheerleader and in high school, a flag girl. It definitely raises lots of questions that keep one thinking about it later. Goes from emementary school through college graduations, so I would share this with readers ages 14-adult who might be coping with food, mental issues, mom issues, sexuality, bullying...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lissa00

    I won this book through the Goodreads Giveaway program. This memoir explores mental illness, childhood, loneliness and violence through vague segments of the author's life. She hardly ever directly discusses these subjects, which I kind of liked, but instead dances around them with her flowing and poetic language. This was a well written memoir but it did take a while to get accustomed to her use of the present tense while talking about episodes that obviously happen in the past. She had an inte I won this book through the Goodreads Giveaway program. This memoir explores mental illness, childhood, loneliness and violence through vague segments of the author's life. She hardly ever directly discusses these subjects, which I kind of liked, but instead dances around them with her flowing and poetic language. This was a well written memoir but it did take a while to get accustomed to her use of the present tense while talking about episodes that obviously happen in the past. She had an interesting and lonely childhood and as she is from my generation, I really sympathized with the key news events and cultural references. Overall, a good addition to the genre.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mia

    I received this book as an advanced reader's copy from Goodreads. I was really excited to win a copy because this had actually been on my to-read list a while now. This memoir deals with a lot themes/issues: depression, mental illness, troubled relationships with parents, loss of friendship, and moving on. There is a lot of heavy material in this book and I could see this being an excellent book for bookclubs to tackle. This is not a "happy ending" memoir. If you liked memoirs like Susanna Kaysen' I received this book as an advanced reader's copy from Goodreads. I was really excited to win a copy because this had actually been on my to-read list a while now. This memoir deals with a lot themes/issues: depression, mental illness, troubled relationships with parents, loss of friendship, and moving on. There is a lot of heavy material in this book and I could see this being an excellent book for bookclubs to tackle. This is not a "happy ending" memoir. If you liked memoirs like Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted or Augusten Burroughs' Running With Scissors you would probably enjoy reading Karen Dietrich's The Girl Factory.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Erin M

    This book was.... unsettling for me. I saw so much of my own girlhood in this book. Not the "big secret reveal" - THAT never happened to me. But I totally GET that feeling that everyone else is in on a big secret that you aren't... that everyone has a "place" and you don't. I completely believed Dietrich's girlhood voice, and I found some of these dismal recollections rather depressing - mostly because they rang true of a time in my life that I was not NEARLY as happy as I am now - and it gave m This book was.... unsettling for me. I saw so much of my own girlhood in this book. Not the "big secret reveal" - THAT never happened to me. But I totally GET that feeling that everyone else is in on a big secret that you aren't... that everyone has a "place" and you don't. I completely believed Dietrich's girlhood voice, and I found some of these dismal recollections rather depressing - mostly because they rang true of a time in my life that I was not NEARLY as happy as I am now - and it gave me a little bit of fear for my young daughter.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Claire S

    Karen knows things. Like the importance of knocking on wood when you've never broken a bone (like me). Like dealing with a mother whose quirks often border on insufferable (like mine). What it feels like to grow up afraid, sometimes irrationally afraid. What you can do to make things better, even if those things are purely superstition or magical. Karen knows me, too. I mean, we first met years ago, when I was entering my formative teen years, and have been pretty good friends ever since. I just Karen knows things. Like the importance of knocking on wood when you've never broken a bone (like me). Like dealing with a mother whose quirks often border on insufferable (like mine). What it feels like to grow up afraid, sometimes irrationally afraid. What you can do to make things better, even if those things are purely superstition or magical. Karen knows me, too. I mean, we first met years ago, when I was entering my formative teen years, and have been pretty good friends ever since. I just didn't know how well she knew me until I finished this book. She probably knows you as well.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    The book begins with Karen as a young girl, and portrays life with two parents as factory workers, and follows her through her teenage years into college. This book focuses on the relationships with her parents, and the multitude of people that go in and out of her life. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to get an image of Pittsburgh in the 1980's and 1990's. It was an interesting book to read. The book begins with Karen as a young girl, and portrays life with two parents as factory workers, and follows her through her teenage years into college. This book focuses on the relationships with her parents, and the multitude of people that go in and out of her life. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to get an image of Pittsburgh in the 1980's and 1990's. It was an interesting book to read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Steph

    I got this book from a Goodreads giveaway and, sadly, I did not finish it. I've tried. Really, I've tried. Twice, in fact. Once when I first received the ARC and again several years later. I still cannot seem to get into it. The story seems to jump around and never quite makes any sense. Just when I think I have an idea of where Karen is taking the narrative, it veers off in another direction. This just didn't end up being for me. I got this book from a Goodreads giveaway and, sadly, I did not finish it. I've tried. Really, I've tried. Twice, in fact. Once when I first received the ARC and again several years later. I still cannot seem to get into it. The story seems to jump around and never quite makes any sense. Just when I think I have an idea of where Karen is taking the narrative, it veers off in another direction. This just didn't end up being for me.

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