A Review of Girls Fall Down by Maggie Helwig

by Nadine Bachan

Published at 2012-03-26

In support of the Toronto Public Library’s city-wide reading event, One Book Toronto, we at TEC obtained copies of Maggie Helwig’s Girls Fall Down (published by Coach House Press) and started our own office book club.

While our opinions of the story of Alex and Susie-Sue varied, we all agreed that this poetic novel — filled with local colloquialisms and endless references to the streets and neighbourhoods of our fair city —was written for true Torontonians.
In many ways, the backdrop of Alex’s story is also a main character. The city of Toronto pulses with life — day and night — revealing glimpses and fragments of its own much-storied presence. Heck, much of the action takes place in and around the stations of the city’s subway system.
We all appreciated Helwig’s often-lyrical style, although Laura pointed out that her directions and descriptions were a bit off, at times, because of it. Nina and Nadine didn’t always find the dialogue very convincing. Beth enjoyed how truthful Helwig remains throughout the novel. The places and people leap off the page. The men, the women, the hordes of girls, Alex, and Susie-Sue: they are all one and the same with the people we encounter everyday while traversing the TTC system.
Girls Fall Down is Maggie Helwig’s love letter to Toronto, albeit a dark and unabashedly realistic one. The message we find here is simple: to love this city is to truly embrace all aspects of it, including what we often find in its many shrouded corners.