"I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ [...] it's the Day blood. Something's wrong with it."
It's this darkness and violence that trail behind"I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ [...] it's the Day blood. Something's wrong with it."
It's this darkness and violence that trail behind Libby Day as she navigates through the trials and tribulations of her changed life. The novel’s strongest point is how readers are brought through a winding journey as they unfold the mystery around the death of Libby’s family and the innocence of her brother through recollections strung together in non-chronological order.
Moments take place within other moments, and the logic of each placement is guided by emotional triggers. Libby’s mulling over the public’s fascination with her deceased mother immediately prompts a passage about her mother. This orchestrated succession of time brings the novel’s psychological space to life: the confusion from time jumps, conflicting accounts, and mounting knowledge let the reader indulge and partake in the unraveling almost viscerally.
Yet apart from Flynn’s undeniable penchant for writing engaging mysteries, gruesome text and morbid events come to numb the shock of the novel. The idea of darkness, although initially charming, becomes overplayed and sucks the energy out of jarring, violent events. Whether this is a reflection of the protagonist’s own desensitization to violence or an exercise in the value and consequences of violence in an adulterated space are questions to be entertained.
I've read Abstinence Teacher and The Leftovers already, which I hated and enjoyed respectively. So this is my third run with Perrotta - I figure whatI've read Abstinence Teacher and The Leftovers already, which I hated and enjoyed respectively. So this is my third run with Perrotta - I figure what keeps me coming back is how well he captures the dry droll of present suburbia life, that whole shindig of getting old, settling down, raising a family, etc. It's something I think future generations will enjoy as a flashback to our own times, much like how we read the period classics for insight into the societies of Austen, Dalloway, and Eyre.
However, I don't think the book carries the drama of an illicit pleasure well - there isn't that anticipation or feeling of complicity that comes with following a secret affair, eagerly turning over the pages and involuntarily uttering things out loud. Maybe I shouldn't be reading it in that way - it's not supposed to be a thriller, but the affair seems to be the central focus of the book. Again, I found issue with Perrotta's treatment of the female lead character, Sarah, much like how I found issue with his treatment of the female lead in The Abstinence Teacher. Are all women in this day and age frumpy sexually-frustrated deviants with tunnel-vision reminiscent of those caught in their wide-eyed teenage years? Maybe that's the point (?).
What strikes me even more is what comes off as the book's unfair treatment of Mr. McGorvey. The text is unsurprisingly demonizing and other than for one major detail, gives little shape to a promising character that comes to drive a lot of the novel's plot. It reminded me much of how J.K. Rowling used cliche knowledge of the internet and technology to write The Casual Vacancy.
But again, Perrotta is great at constructing a fictional suburbia with real (but fictional) concerns over individual vs family, midlife crises, and the overall vacancy that looms over traditional yet unfulfilling lives of largely self-absorbed people. Most of all, there is no love story here, and there is no love. Everything ends on a sense of resignation, hopelessness. To me, that's a bit refreshing. ...more