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.
Short story writers have minimal space to make a reader care about the topic and the characters. There’s an economy to it, and Noyes is a master. Take this description, for instance, from 'This Is Who She Was': 'She wore her collarbones like jewelry.' I’ll never think of collarbones the same way again. These are stories that are built on everyday details told in deceptively simple ways, like this line: 'Winter was a tarped boat and the windows dark by three thirty.' Goodnight, Beautiful Women glimmers with the hopes and failures of the girls and women Noyes’ writes about.
[Noyes'] stories are nuanced and unapologetic, revealing the shadow sides of women and girls in all their wild and terrible glory ... Noyes doesn’t offer tidy solutions for her protagonists’ struggles. Some readers will be turned off by this open-endedness and lack of redemption; other readers may find the stories depressing. But for many, these tender and brutal stories will pierce your core like a hook in the gut, shimmering with raw pain and heartache and the desperate desire to survive. Because despite the darkness in these stories, the women and girls within always discover something about themselves and grow a little bit stronger. They’re sometimes thoroughly lost, maybe irrevocably damaged, and uncertain what to do next, but in Noyes’s talented hands, you’re left with the certainty that these tough and wild and messed-up women are going to figure it out.
Guilt provides this work much of its urgency, aided by sharp, confident prose ... for the most part, Noyes’ narrators maintain a narrow focus on a single person or event ... Gritty, beautiful and full of loss, Noyes’ stories make an impressive debut.