Clarissa's Reviews > The End of Alice

The End of Alice by A.M. Homes
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's review
Oct 24, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2010
Read in October, 2010

I suppose I picked up this book because I felt something akin to the emotion of having been "double-dog-dared". I have read a few of A.M Homes short stories (the one that springs to mind is the one about the boy and the barbie doll), and enjoyed them immensely, and greatly admired her writing style and unusual subject matter. Like a lot of people (whether or not they admit it), I do enjoy being horrified, grossed out, disgusted and mildly traumatized by art. Books and movies that people hype as being extremely disturbing, raunchy, racy, horrifying, etc, rarely bother me to the extent that I'm led to believe I will be bothered.
So obviously, after reading the summary, and the reviews, I felt like I just needed to see if it was all true.
It was.
The book details the correspondence between an incarcerated pedophile (who has been locked up for twenty-three years), and a burgeoning female pedophile- the latter of whom is nineteen years old with sights set on the twelve year old neighbor boy. Our narrator, the former of the two, lured me in with his Humbert-reminiscent articulation. Like someone standing at the oceans edge, rip-current well concealed, I dipped my toe in, then my foot. And then it was too late for me.
By the end of this book, I felt assaulted. I hope I do not trivialize the horrors of being victimized by a pedophile by saying that, but it was how I felt. I feel like the first few chapters of the book "groomed" me for the lurid and sickening descriptions of pedophilic rape, incest, and torture that followed. There were several moments where I thought " I know what she is about to describe, but surely she wont be that graphic " , and then she WAS, and then some. By the end of it I felt like I'd been forcibly subjected to it all against my will and was then left to deal alone- desolate, and shameful.
I made it through the whole book basically trying to answer the question "why the hell am I reading this?". I know better than to look for a "happy ending" or anything redeeming, so why? Did I take pleasure in reading about the torture of children? NO. Did I enjoy being disgusted? Well yes, but not to that extent. Maybe just to push my limits. I still don't know.
It has been said that this book is a gratuitous piece of filth, and worse, that it is the kind of child pornography in the written form that a true pedophile would get off on. I fear the latter might be true.
But it is more than just a piece of filth. Homes stated in an interview that she desired to narrate from the perspective of a murderer, a sex-offender of the worst kind. That it wasn't a place that many authors had dared to go. And she did it well. Maybe too well. I felt that "Chappy" was a living, breathing being, locked up in the prison just a few towns over.
The major conflict I keep going through in my head was this: did this book really need to be written? Our culture is so inundated with shows like "to catch a predator" and to an extent, sensationalizes sexual crimes with shows like Law and Order SVU. I would argue that it is thrilling to watch things like these, and then tell ourselves it's ok to be thrilled because of the punitive nature of these shows. We feel glorious and self righteous in our hate for people like Chappy and the nineteen year old, and take glee in their punishment. We are never forced to actually go inside their heads, or consider their upbringing.
PLEASE NOTE that I believe child molesters deserve everything they get, and maybe more.
However, this book doesn't smack with said self-righteousness. If you expect that Homes is going to come in and make you feel ok about the sickening slurry of horror-arousal you may feel throughout this book by shivving the main charachter, she wont. And this is what makes her a truly great writer. She pushes our heads in and says "LOOK" in such a subtle way, it is hard to tear away. And makes us confront sides of ourselves we may not have wanted to in the process.
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