{a few notes}

• I wrote a review of Louis de Bernières’s Corelli’s Mandolin for my group book blog, which you can find here.

• I was still thinking about Wally Lamb’s This Much I Know Is True for literally weeks after finishing. I finally had to lend it to a friend to stop staring at the cover on my desk and silently internally weeping. Yikes bikes. 

Here is a pretty good review of the Great Gatsby movie that I think pretty well sums up my reaction to it, if you weren’t tired of it already. 

Happy Monday!

{truth}

I read Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone a few months ago, and it’s stuck with me pretty solidly. Lamb doesn’t pull any punches with the s*** that goes down, but his characters are so real in their complete flawed effed-up-ness that it kept me page turning until the end. I decided to follow up with Lamb’s other famous novel, I Know This Much Is True.

IKTMIS is the story of identical twin brothers Thomas and Dominick Birdsey. Thomas has paranoid schizophrenia and has been institutionalized for half of his life, almost twenty years. The story opens with Thomas entering a public library and cutting off his own right hand, believing his sacrifice has been commanded by God to stop the approaching Gulf War. Dominick, the narrator, searches through his relationship with his brother, recalling a childhood with a submissive mother and abusive stepfather and trying to come to terms with his existence as the mentally and physically “whole” twin.

I should’ve been prepared for Lamb coming out of SCU, but honestly, this was probably the most emotionally difficult book I have ever read. Each of the characters experiences a pain that is almost palpable in its intensity, and Dominick sits at the forefront of this. Bound to his brother for life by love, fear, and guilt, he is unable to move forward on his own or forge an identity for himself separate from that of Thomas’s protector. Dominick himself certainly isn’t a perfect protagonist: he’s often arrogant and aggressive. After growing up both scornful and jealous of his brother’s sensitivity, he martyrs himself in caring for Thomas, accepting that sole responsibility as his role in life.

The best thing you could do was cut your losses. . . Play defense. That was something I always understood and Thomas never did.

The second half of the book weakened a little for me, as Dominick is hospitalized after an accident, reads their grandfather’s memoirs, and searches for their father’s identity. But the first half— Man, the first half just ripped out my heartstrings. These identical twins, so close they can tell when the other one is hurt, and one spending his life watching the other be destroyed, unable to either help or leave. It’s a story of redemption, really, for Dominick, redeeming himself for failing to protect both Thomas and himself.

“. . . there are two young men lost in the woods. . . I may never find one of the young men,” [Dr. Patel] said. “He has been gone so long. The odds, I’m afraid, may be against it. But as for the other, I may have better luck. The other young man may be calling me.”

{completely undone}

Dayzz and dayzz of not reading/blogging. Hello, 2013!

I read Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone over Christmas vacation, so forgive me if my recollection of the book is not super detailed/accurate. SCU is Dolores Price’s first-person narration of her life—from a childhood of divorce, to a preteen rape victim, to a college dropout, to a mental patient, to a wife. It’s a messy, messy story, and not one that I went into (or came out of) lightly.

A friend had earlier compared this book to Augusten Burrough’s Running with Scissors, and while they are of a similar genre (let’s take this chance to coin the term bildungsroman disturbia), my emotional reaction to each was very different, perhaps due to the difference between memoir and fiction. RwS left me shocked, uncomfortable, and majorly questioning my own life boundaries and expectations. While SCU was no less shocking, no less uncomfortable, I finished it feeling gratified.

The difference, I think, was my attitude toward the protagonist. Dolores is no saint, no traditional heroine—in fact, throughout much of the book, she treats the people in her life horrifically. Her decisions made me cringe, her choice of allies terrified me, and her lifestyle was often repellant. Yet her tenacity and frankness caught my loyalty from the start. Throughout all the truly awful s*** in this book, I remained a firm believer in Dolores, a reading experience that’s not easy to overlook. Somehow, Lamb created a powerful and deeply sympathetic character out of disillusionment and pain. It’s something to be aware of before starting this book, I think, but well worth the emotional disturbance of reading it.