I spent the summer devouring books. Some weeks, I read five books. The week I read THE UNFINISHED WORK OF ELIZABETH. D., I slowed down and savored eacI spent the summer devouring books. Some weeks, I read five books. The week I read THE UNFINISHED WORK OF ELIZABETH. D., I slowed down and savored each word.
The book asks important questions about friendship. As Elizabeth D.'s journals are read, the person who thought she knew her best finds out that Elizabeth had a life of her own that did not belong to any of her friends.
The writing is wonderful--beautiful sentences that will make you want to linger over them.
I have been recommending this book to all of my book-loving friends. It'll be great when it comes out in paperback so that even more people will be able to read it.
I read this novella over the weekend. As usual, I read Baxter for the characters and the gorgeous language, rarely the plot, which saves me now from hI read this novella over the weekend. As usual, I read Baxter for the characters and the gorgeous language, rarely the plot, which saves me now from having to summarize what this book is about. But I will share one of his passages:
"I suppose he must have loved me back then. He must have enjoyed being me for a while, wearing my clothes and my autobiography. And I suppose I must have noticed it, but I never thought of his emotions as particularly consequential to anyone, and certainly not to me--the feelings being unreciprocated--and in those days, brush fires of frustrated eros burned nearly everywhere. Everyone suffered, everyone. I myself burned from them, and when you are burning, you are blinded to the other fires."
THE ALMOST MOON is a brave book by a courageous writer. After the phenomenal success of THE LOVELY BONES, Alice Sebold could have chosen to write a soTHE ALMOST MOON is a brave book by a courageous writer. After the phenomenal success of THE LOVELY BONES, Alice Sebold could have chosen to write a sophomore novel in which she once again gave readers a sympathetic, utterly likable narrator like Susie Salmon. Instead, she writes through the voice of Helen Knightly, and Helen tells the reader, right from the beginning, that liking her is going to be a challenge:
When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily. Dementia, as it descends, has a way of revealing the core of the person affected by it. My mother's core was rotten like the brackish water at the bottom of a weeks-old vase of flowers. She had been beautiful when my father met her and still capable of love when I became their late-in-life child, but by the time she gazed up at me that day, none of this mattered.
The book, told in Helen's voice, is about the 24 hours that follow the matricide. But, in that day, Helen will veer back and forth between a present, in which she deals with the consequences of her actions, and the past, in which the costs of her mother's closeted mental illness make themselves clear to Helen in a series of flashbacks.
Helen's behavior, while at first difficult to comprehend, becomes more understandable as she narrates her story. Some readers will undoubtedly find Helen such a difficult narrator that they will be unable to empathize with her. It's part of what shows Sebold to be a writer who is willing to take risks. Creating a character who, at first read, appears vain and unempathetic, is to take the risk that a reader will not stick with the book until the end. But, as more of Helen's story is told, one sees how damaged she was by a childhood in which her parents' demons injured her. And Sebold's language and skill as a writer give to Helen a depth that demands that the reader "hear her out."
As Helen tells more of her story, we see the shadows of her parents' demons move across Helen's skin. She grew up in a house of secrets but Helen makes her living as a nude art model, and yet, while Helen is nude almost every day, she is rarely naked. She had learned to hide from the people who love her: her ex-husband, her best friend and her best friend's son, and Helen's two daughters, as effectively as Helen's agoraphobic mother had hidden from the world. Killing her mother forces Helen out into the open, and Sebold lets us see an imperfect woman who struggles with all-too-human issues albeit in a violent and extreme way. ...more