Girl One by Sara Flannery Murphy
Combining mystery, sci-fi and social commentary, Girl One is a testament to the importance of female relationships
What if women didn’t need men to reproduce? That’s exactly the question Sara Flannery Murphy’s Girl One asks. Josephine Morrow is Girl One, the first of nine human babies successfully born via parthenogenesis on the commune-like Homestead. When her mother goes missing one day, she undertakes a cross-country road trip to find her, visiting the other mother-daughter pairs who scattered after the destruction of the Homestead 17 years prior and uncovering the hidden details of their murky past along the way.
Combining mystery, sci-fi and social commentary, the book tries to do a lot in a short space and proves mostly successful – the questions over scientific ethics, reproductive rights, and female independence that it raises give its supernatural elements a much-needed feminist edge that make it difficult to put down. It could have benefited, however, from more space to flesh out all of its characters and plot points more fully, with the ending leaving some loose ends for the reader.
Yet the novel’s main strength lies in the attention it pays to relationships and their effects on the individuals involved. As the story moves on there’s a clear shift within Josephine from defining herself by her relationships to the men in her life and past, to the women she finds herself around and the one she’s searching for – her mother. Girl One is a testament to the emotional and empowering importance of these defining female relationships.