Unrelenting

I recently went to see Atonement. It was beautiful, and well acted, and it set this impossible tone throughout. It was unrelenting; the music, the images, the impending sense of doom, the utter misery, even early on when you are kept waiting for half the movie for the tragedy you just know is coming.

leftovers, by Laura Wiess, is like that. When I decided after retrieving the book from across the room after page 20 to keep reading I was prepared for what to expect, but still.

At first the structure was off putting, and it took me a while to get into the flow. Much of the story is told in second person – using you when referring to themselves. At first it makes it hard to discern what is referencing Blair and Ardith, and what is just an illustration of their points. Also there are interruptions while they answer questions from their audience (Officer Dave), but his questions must be inferred from their answers as they are not written down. Eventually I settled into the narrative, but the second person narration does have a distancing effect.

The lessons that Blair and Ardith learn, what they see as entering the adult world, are overwhelmingly depressing and the whole tone of the book is oppressive. There is no light. It is unrelenting. But like Atonement, I could see the beauty in it. I think this a better written piece than such a pretty girl.

You told us once not to be in such a hurry to grow up, but I don’t see any way we could have avoided it.There was always someone out there ready to carve away another chunk of our innocence.

Really this is what the book explores, the loss and the confusion and grief of losing your innocence. Dellasandra is the perfect foil for Ardith and Blair’s carefully not so carefully cultivated (by others) despair and cynicism. Della is all self absorbed, pampered sweetness, and yet in some ways a mini-adult who has bought into the sense of what you see is true, and not seeing the beneaths. I have a hard time in the end viewing her as their victim, perhaps because I cannot get past Blair and Ardith’s victimhood. And yes they justify their actions by claiming to take back their power but as Officer Dave asks at the very end – have they?

I would like to see Dawn A. Emerman at Avenging Sybil take this book on because I think she can do a better job than I with the double standard Ardith, in particular, encounters and struggles with. Blair seems so much more willing to use her femaleness as a weapon, Ardith never is comfortable with it, more willing to join her mother’s notion of “sisterhood” but perhaps this is the model she is provided….. This may be the issue I return to, if I can bear this book again.

Look – it isn’t an easy book to read on an emotional level, but I have a feeling this will stay with me for a long, long time.

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Oh my freakin’ god!

I am starting to read leftovers by laura wiess and am so upset about the dog that I don’t know if I can continue and I am like 14 pages in. Those parents are HORRIBLE!!!!!

Edited to add:

Seriously! on page 20 and am going to toss the book across the room – that mother!!!!!!

Damaged

I’ve been reading about damaged people a lot lately. After I finished Right Behind You I picked up Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess, and then it was This is What I Did by Ann Dee Ellis, and finally I read Feels Like Home by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo. Of the three I enjoyed Such a Pretty Girl the most.

Meredith has had 3 years of the promised 9 years of safety when her father is released from jail. Dear old dad is an equal opportunist pedophile. More horrifying is a mother who absolutely refuses to acknowledge the truth or protect Meredith. Really horrible evil woman – and honestly no more than a child herself. It is bad enough that Meredith has been living in a town that knows her father as a pedophile, surrounded by his other victims but her mother doesn’t acknowledge Meredith as a victim. And Dad is bad, he is an utter creep. But now he is home, and Meredith knows it is only a matter of time. Meredith may be such a pretty girl, but she is damaged, and you feel it to the core. Still, turns out she is a survivor and that means something.

Speaking of damaged Logan, of This is What I Did, gives Meredith a run for her money. He is bullied, alone, and absolutely unable to share/talk about why. Unlike Meredith whose rage is occasionally turned on someone else, Logan’s is all internalized. He hates himself, is consumed with guilt for what he did. The rumors he is forced to live with, that he refuses to answer, all contribute to his self-hatred. There are some interesting formatting choices in this novel – sort of Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. In fact this book reminded me of that one, something about my inability to connect with the narrator, the visual icons separating sections, the tone. Yet it is a very different book.

And to round out the damage in Feels Like Home there is Mickey who has a whole set of abandonment issues that she fights back against. Her mother left, after an accident her brother disappeared, and when her father dies it all just sort of comes to a head. Her brother has returned, but she knows he will bail on her again because “Nothing gold can stay” and running away is what he does best. But even Ponyboy has to grow up, and that often doesn’t mean what we think it means. The Outsiders is a common thread in this book, and frankly it helps to have read that story, which I have mixed feelings about. Is The Outsiders still relevant? Its taken a while to post because I just haven’t been sure about this book. Can’t decide how I feel, so I am just going to say that I am Charlie Brown on this one – wishy-washy.