“I've never believed in the idea of an innocent bystander. The act of watching changes what happens. Just because you don't touch anything doesn't mean you are exempt.” (from Marlena)
Julie Buntin’s debut novel, Marlena, tells a deeply-felt tale of female friendship at a thriller’s pace. Unfolding over a year in Northern Michigan, the story is told by bookish Cat, reeling from her parents’ divorce, as she stumbles into a life-altering friendship with effervescent, doomed Marlena.
Pulled out of her prestigious private school outside Detroit, Cat is taken to live in a prefabricated house on the outskirts of a summer resort town. She is quickly confronted by rural poverty and the contrasting boredom and desperation that blankets the area during the stark winter months. But in Marlena, her new neighbor, she finds excitement and even some glamor that quickly seals their intense bond. Buntin captures the exciting, dangerous allure of teenage rebellion, which in Silver Lake overlaps with the looming shadow of opioid abuse. Cat narrowly escapes both the addiction and the poverty of her teenage years, but as she narrates the story from her life in New York City, it is clear she is still intoxicated by Marlena herself.
"Excellent....a wild, gorgeous evocation...[Buntin's] lyricism is precise and revelatory, capable of great beauty and, when called for, great ugliness. Marlena is a novel about youth--a time of splendor and squalor. Buntin makes us see, hear and feel both." - San Francisco Chronicle
A powerful and engaging voice at fiction readings, Buntin also offers a unique perspective as a publishing professional. She has a remarkable depth of knowledge about both the present, and the future, of the publishing industry. Her writing has also appeared in the Atlantic, Cosmopolitan, O, the Oprah Magazine, and Slate.