Rebecca Kelley writes characters who are exactly as flawed and worthy of love as we are, and the cities that her characters inhabit are as flawed andRebecca Kelley writes characters who are exactly as flawed and worthy of love as we are, and the cities that her characters inhabit are as flawed and worthy of love -- and passion! -- as are the people. The cities, in short, are characters too; Reno with its open pluckiness, its plain and verdant longing; Portland with its earnestness, its dripping moss-and-fern-covered trees, its stubborn belief in the possibility of pioneering in your own back yard.
Yes, there is passion here, passion for place and for sex and for love that won't ever hurt anyone. Joanna is brilliant in her possession of that moral sense women develop in their late twenties after they've seen enough relationships fail; that surely the problem is solvable through sense and independence. In some ways I see, in Kelley's work, a thoroughly modern Jane Austen; this is Sense and Sensibility, Portland style. Austen's protagonists, too, believe they can save themselves from heartache if only they can enter into all affairs of love leading with their intellect and strength of character.
Joanna has decided she can maintain control over her life -- the control she saw her mother lose more than a few times -- by setting ground rules, by never believing in a love that can last forever. By agreeing upfront to end a relationship the moment right before it "gets messy." She, Joanna, will never fall prey to that moviescreen moment, the one in which the protagonist locks herself away in her apartment to subsist on ice cream and tears for weeks! Joanna, with her introspective walks, her belief in problem solving, can always fix anything.
That is, at least, what she believes. The more emotionally confusing the situation, the more Joanna seeks to control herself; when things get intensely confusing, Joanna gets creative. Malcolm presents a problem; he's a love interest she never, ever wants to lose. Given her pragmatic approach to love; the intention to end things before anyone gets hurt; Joanna's only solution is to keep Malcolm her "friend." Friends, after all, never get divorced, never cheat on you. Friends you can safely love forever.
Joanna's passionate life's work, to keep herself safe from damaging heartbreak, fills this book with its delicious friendships and couplings, excursions into online dating, home improvement, vegetable gardening, and lots and lots of adventurous sex. Kelley handles the passion deftly, the way I imagine Austen would write sex scenes were she our contemporary; with intensity, truth, matter-of-factness, and humor. Sometimes she takes our breath away, sometimes she has us shaking our heads in agreement (her description of Joanna's sex with her boyfriend Nate had me laughing in familiarity; for the record, sweet love, this is long ago familiarity).
What Kelley does most is give us a romantic heroine for our times, one who defines the conventional love-and-marriage not as the safe haven at the end of a romantic journey, but as a dangerous journey itself, one for which not everyone is suited. Her protagonists believe in love; but believe it's messy and fraught with peril and are only willing to trust others as far as they trust themselves. That's not very far, so when her protagonists DO take a leap, we can't help but leap with them....more
I know, it's a book with my essay in it, I'm hardly going to give it one star. But not only is my essay, 'No Other Gods,' objectively good (I maintainI know, it's a book with my essay in it, I'm hardly going to give it one star. But not only is my essay, 'No Other Gods,' objectively good (I maintain); the whole compilation is an illuminating, thought-provoking, highly-scented description of what it is to be a woman in the south in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.
Longer review to come when I'm not typing with my thumb....more
Seriously beautiful crafted book. All the quiet internal scenes and yet there are battles with dragons and wraiths and wizards who change into animalsSeriously beautiful crafted book. All the quiet internal scenes and yet there are battles with dragons and wraiths and wizards who change into animals, and yet this book is marked most by contemplation, by deep meaningful friendships between men, by weird and truth-telling characterizations of pain and fear and pride and love. Nothing here is un-cared-for, nothing here is beside the point, nothing here is in-your-face. Ursula takes magic and monsters and makes it all the most human, the most artful...more