Pickpocket Mollie Flynn and prostitute Annabelle Lee are as much a part of the Bowery as any of the immigrants or local gangs that call the area home. Unapologetic and unafraid, Mollie has no qualms doing what she must to survive amidst the poverty that threatens to overtake her every day.
It’s 1883 and things are changing in New York City. With the Brooklyn Bridge nearing completion and Annabelle Lee newly released from prison, Mollie dreams of crossing the bridge and finding a new life there outside the filth and tenements of the Bowery.
But getting to Brooklyn will take more than a few choice marks and johns can offer. With unexpected difficulties and unwanted meddling from a new neighborhood reformer named Emmeline Dupree, Mollie and Annabelle are forced to decide once and for all who they are and, harder still, who they want to be in Bowery Girl (2006) by Kim Taylor.
Bowery Girl is a wonderfully evocative look into life among the immigrant poor in 1883. Taylor brings this era of New York to life on the page with her careful descriptions of everything from Mollie and Annabelle’s tenement rooms to the bath house where they bathe that eventually becomes a reform-era settlement house.
Bowery Girl is an informative story about New York City before the five boroughs consolidated with interesting details about the Brooklyn Bridge and daily life.
Unfortunately, the plot in Bowery Girl does not stand up to the finely detailed scene Taylor sets. There is simply not enough action to move the plot forward even at the slim 240 pages.
Readers hoping for action and excitement will be mollified by Mollie’s raucous and violent Bowery lifestyle and the near-constant swearing throughout. Where Bowery Girl will really shine is for readers hoping to find insight into this period in New York City’s turbulent history.
Possible Pairings: Twenty-One Elephants by Phil Bildner and LeUyen Pham, Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats, Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher, The Luxe by Anna Godbersen, New York: A Short History by George J. Lankevich, Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing by April Jones Prince, How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis, Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin