The Girls Next Door

The Girls Next Door

“Peter Turchi’s funny, sad, warm first novel teases the reader into thinking it’s about sex, when the real subject is love.”
— Richard Russo

“Turchi has taken conventional American life and, while dramatizing its hypocrisy, presented an individual vision of its strength. This is a wise, witty, and unusual first novel.”
— Chicago Tribune

“A winsome, charming, life-affirming novel.”
— Booklist

“A stunning novel… much more than just funny… a very warm and perceptive story about a young husband’s coming of age.”
— The Baltimore Sun

“Turchi writes with a humorous touch that belies his serious explorations of the meaning of love, commitment, and coming to terms with the past. Written from the heart, this is a lovely debut.”
— Chicago Sun-Times

“In the early days of our marriage, Donna and I
did everything together. When she vacuumed, I held the
cord; when I took out the trash, she came along for the
walk. But by our eleven-month anniversary, in June of
1963, things had already started to change. While Donna
went off with her mother that day, I stayed home and
helped prostitutes move into the neighborhood.

Looking back, I see how that should have been a
sure sign of trouble.”

The Girls Next Door, Peter Turchi’s first book, has its roots in a story from the early days of his parents’ marriage. “The house that shared a driveway with ours was rented to a variety of people,” Turchi says. “In the spring of 1960, when my sister was 5, four women moved in. They kept to themselves; my parents didn’t even know their names. But from the light in the front window and the visitors they had at night—all men, all ages—what was going on seemed clear enough.

“My father was a traveling salesman, and he had a trailer filled with demonstration pieces of the industrial equipment he sold. One Sunday afternoon he was hooking up the trailer to the car for another week on the road, and the three young women from the house next door came over to help. As they pulled the trailer toward the car, my father looked over his shoulder at the kitchen window and saw my mother, pregnant with me, and her parents, one on either side of her, all glaring out at him.

“That’s all there was to the story, but my father always enjoyed telling it. Jump ahead 20 years. I’m spending my junior year abroad, and over the long winter vacation I’m staying in a family-run hotel in the Latin Quarter of Paris. The husband speaks a little English, but his wife and their son don’t, and I’m getting by with what little French I picked up during my senior year of high school, when I was highly distracted. Every morning I had breakfast at the dining room table with the boy who, like boys around the world, was eating too fast and trying to finish the homework he should have done the night before. We couldn’t converse, but I started wondering what it was like to grow up with different strangers sharing your house every day, and that spring I started to write a story about a boy growing up in a small hotel in Paris.

“The problem was that I knew nothing, really, about Paris, or about being French. So I moved the hotel to Kansas. I’m not sure why I did that, but it was another bad idea, as I had never been to Kansas. So I finally did what I had resisted—the obvious—and moved the hotel to Baltimore, where I grew up. But I didn’t know anything about running a hotel. So I gave the boy, who had become a young man near my own age, a big family: six brothers and a sister, all named after starting players on the 1927 New York Yankees. I put a rental house, which is something like a hotel, beside it. And then I remembered my father’s story.”

Turchi drafted the book as an undergraduate at Washington College and completed it after earning his MFA at the University of Arizona. Originally published by New American Library and then, in paperback, by Plume, the novel has been optioned by a variety of filmmakers, and at least two screen adaptations have been written.

In The Girls Next Door newly-married George Willis is tested when Dusty, one of the new neighbors, asks for help with her lawnmower. He insists he’s a happily married man; but before long his friend Press tells him, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” This wise and funny novel scrutinizes love and marriage, baseball, commitment, and sex—and the feelings of loneliness that can take up residence in a young husband’s heart.

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