Moving along the Maine Coast and beyond, the interconnected stories in Goodnight, Beautiful Women bring us into the sultry, mysterious inner lives of New England women and girls as they navigate the dangers and struggles of their outer worlds.
The stories may sound grim, but they consistently sparkle with expressive detail ... Noyes’s knack for lucid prose includes providing her characters with simple language that nevertheless grasps an understanding of complex human dynamics ... While the characters in Goodnight, Beautiful Women suffer no shortage of hardship, and are often as much participants in their own downfall as they are victims of it, they are full of an honesty they can’t hide.
Noyes’s stories work by elision. Partial, elusive, inconclusive, they are like lit windows on trailers glimpsed from the road. One has a sense of peering in, fascinated if baffled, as the characters seem. Hers is a spare and disjunctive style. If the fiction of Stephen King and Alice Munro had a literary love child, it might look like this: luminous domestic moments married to a pervasive sense of threat ... Noyes is a master of disturbing juxtapositions that interpolate childhood games with sexuality, suggesting something dangerous in both ... The cavalcade of trauma — drowning, rape, incest, cancer, suicide, burglary, pedophilia — can tip toward melodrama. But Noyes’s prose is admirably restrained, and the real drama remains that of character, the mystery we are to ourselves.
Noyes is among a bevy of women cataloging the whirring dangers of youth, among them Lindsey Hunter and her page-turning novel of female friendship Ugly Girls, and Robin Wasserman, whose Girls on Fire follows a Nirvana-loving pair and their suburban exploits. But unlike her ilk, Noyes does nothing to romanticize rough-and-tumble girlhood. She plunges into it, floats in its muddiness, and emerges to gaze on it without appraisal, like a hiker meditating on a pond.