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August 19, 2015

Book Notes - Val Brelinski "The Girl Who Slept with God"

The Girl Who Slept with God

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Val Brelinski's The Girl Who Slept with God is an impressive debut novel of faith and family.

The Wall Street Journal wrote of the book:

"Brelinski’s page-turning debut is full of humor, insight and imaginative sympathy. Think of it as the annunciation of a new talent."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In her own words, here is Val Brelinski's Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Girl Who Slept with God:


My novel is all about the heady and tempestuous time that is adolescence, and my own 1970s adolescence in particular. I have never, before or since, loved music with the strange intensity that I did during that time period. My friends and I listened to and talked about songs with near-religious fervor, and argued about the merits of the Stones and David Bowie with a seriousness and sophistication that belied our complete immaturity. I had a leather-encased transistor radio I listened to at every opportunity, much to my evangelical Christian parents' dismay. Music was the single bond that united every high school student, whether stoner or shit-kicker, and each Camaro and Nova and Barracuda in the high school parking lot had an eight-track player and a wooden box full of plastic and easily unspooled tapes stowed beneath the passenger seat. Individual songs became forever linked to specific school events, certain couples, and particular illicit activities. There were songs you listened to on the bus going to an away game, and songs you listened to as you made out fervently with your crush at the lake. Every action was accompanied by a soundtrack that was as mysterious and magical as the sensuality and danger and pathos of all our teenaged love and angst.

"Hot Love" by T Rex

The wondrous beginnings of glam rock and high-voiced rock gods. When I was 14, I liked to imagine that this paean to young, west coast girls was written just for me and my two-penny prince. Whenever I envision the film version of my novel (which I do unsurprisingly often), this song is playing as my teenaged protagonist, Jory, rides her banana-seated Stingray bike to Wednesday night prayer meeting.

"Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James and the Shondells

I listened to this song each morning as my very first boyfriend drove me to school in his blue Barracuda, while his older sister sat in the back seat radiating hostility and Love's Lemonfresh Cologne. I had no real idea what the phrase crimson and clover implied, but I was willing to go along, just to hear that amazing wah-wah pedal.

"Lola" by the Kinks

I adored this song, which in my tiny hometown meant I was a freak and headed for hell. Indeterminate gender and fluid sexuality were not popular notions in rural Idaho of the 1970s. My best friend and I loved to sing this during cheerleading practice just to infuriate the guys on the football team.

"Bell Bottom Blues" by Derek and the Dominos

The most gorgeously agonized break up-make up song ever. Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you? Do you want me to beg you to take me back? High school was all about the drama and trauma of breaking up. In my novel, Jory has the very worst kind of break up—the kind that involves her crush and her older sister. Let the begging and crawling commence.

"American Woman" by The Guess Who

The Canadians finally strike back! Even as we American women rebelliously wore American flag patches upside down on our Levi's back pockets, we took umbrage with our neighbor to the north's disparaging tone. The main character in my novel listens to this song as she takes her very first sip of alcohol at her very first grown up party. Yay, America!

"Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum

I got kicked out of Bible class for playing this song (along with "My Sweet Lord" by George Harrison) as a part of a class presentation on original sin. I still like its simple and clear-cut theology: "Gotta have a friend in Jesus / So you know that when you die / He's gonna recommend you / To the spirit in the sky." My Bible teacher felt somewhat differently.

"Suffragette City" by David Bowie

I couldn't quite figure out what suffragettes had to do with this song, but I absolutely adored its wild-paced beat. I was also sure that the line was, "The smell of that chick just put my spine out of place." In my novel, Jory listens to this song while riding around in her favorite ice cream man's truck.

"These Eyes" by The Guess Who

Perhaps the greatest make out song ever. Even if I hear this song now, I am instantly back in the front seat of a Chevy Nova, perched sinfully next to the gear shift, waiting for my dad—the morality moderator—to flip the porch light on and off, on and off.

"Let's Spend the Night Together" by the Rolling Stones

Another great song to get pregnant by. No subliminal messages here, just overt and happily unabashed ones. A musical proposition, written and performed by and for healthy young animals. My mother was so horrified by this song that she locked me out of the house and confiscated all of my rock and roll albums. Of which there were a paltry few.

"She's a Rainbow" by the Rolling Stones

The main character in my novel takes an accidental LSD trip, and this atypical song (for the Stones) reminds me of the strange juxtaposition of the goofy with the darkly surreal. The sound and the lyrics almost capture the nature of that beautiful and utterly disorienting experience.

"Wild World" by Cat Stevens

This sweetly sad song with its bitter aftertaste is especially appropriate for the ending of my novel, in which a jilted male is surprised by his girl's new-found independence. Here the singer spitefully spends the entirety of the song mansplaining to his ex about just how bad the single world is going to suck. For her.

"The Rain Song" by Led Zeppelin

I have no idea how many times I listened to Houses of the Holy while in high school (enough times to realize that I wanted to be Robert Plant, I guess). Regardless, I love this particular song as much now as I did then. It feels expansive and timeless and surprisingly philosophical in the completeness of its narrative arc and its final realization that "Upon us all a little rain must fall."


Val Brelinski and The Girl Who Slept with God links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry
excerpt from the book

Cleveland Plain Dealer review
Houston Chronicle review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review
Salon interview with the author
Seattle Times review
Wall Street Journal review

The Compulsive Reader interview with the author
Publishers Weekly essay by the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)


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