In the following essay, the critic gives a critical analysis of Baggott’s work.
As a young writer, Julianna Baggott watched as many of her contemporaries headed for the publishing capital of the world, New York City, to make their mark on the literary scene. After receiving her master’s degree, however, Baggott and her poet husband headed for a small Delaware city, where she went to work writing short stories and then poetry as she began to raise a family. Baggott wisely wasn’t all that interested in the literary scene. ‘‘I just wanted to write,’’ she told Dirk Westphal for an article in Poets & Writers Magazine. ‘‘I didn’t want to ‘be a writer.’’’
The distinction paid off for Baggott. In 2001 at the age of thirty-one, her first two books, a novel and volume of poetry, were published within months of each other. Baggott had arrived on the literary scene whether she liked it or not.
Baggott’s novel Girl Talk, which appeared in bookstores a month before her collection of poetry titled This Country of Mothers, is a mother-daughter, coming-of-age tale in which thirty-year-old Lissy Jablonski, pregnant and unmarried, reflects back to the summer when she was fifteen. That summer, Lissy and her mother took a road trip after Lissy’s father had run off with another woman. During the trip, Lissy and her mother engage in nights of ‘‘girl talk,’’ and Lissy soon discovers secrets about her mother’s past, including the fact that her mother once tried to commit suicide and that her biological father is actually the dwarfish Anthony Pantuliano, who is her mother’s only true love.
Writing in the Washington Post Book World, Abby Frucht found the novel charming but lacking in substance. Although she described Baggott’s novel as ‘‘clever,’’ Frucht noted that the novel does not lead ‘‘to anything truly persuasive.’’ Most critics, however, praised the book for its serious...
(The entire section is 834 words.)