“The Girl in the Window” is the story of Dani, a child so removed from normal human community she has been labeled “feral.” In this St. Petersburg Times piece, Lane DeGregory walks along a delicate tightrope, exploring an abused child’s situation without compounding her exploitation. We found ourselves drawn in, not only by inherent interest in the story but also by a vivid intimacy in the writing: “All night she kept popping up, creeping sideways on her toes into the kitchen. She would pull out the frozen food drawer and stand on the bags of vegetables so she could see into the refrigerator.”

A significant online component adds to DeGregory’s article. Photographer Melissa Lyttle portrays Danielle’s tantrums, using pictures and audio in place of more invasive video. The online package, though, was sometimes disorienting in its sheer volume.

The text, too, was extensive, and while we applaud the inclusion of Dani’s biological mother in the narrative, we wished a piece of this length offered more real insight into her. We did, however, appreciate the literary context DeGregory offers about “Wolf boys and bird girls, Tarzan, Mowgli from The Jungle Book”—and the subtle way she shows that many of the narratives that precede Dani’s do not have happy endings.

In the complimentary portrayal of Dani’s life with her new parents, DeGregory risks descending to “all you need is love” for narrative closure. And yet what makes the piece successful are the nagging questions exhumed along the way, like those from a childcare worker who asks, “What’s the best we can hope for her? After all she’s been through, is it just being safe?”

Read a Poynter Online interview with Lane DeGregory and Melissa Lyttle.

Read “The Girl in the Window,” by Lane DeGregory

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