Vanessa's Reviews > Paint It Black

Paint It Black by Janet Fitch
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Jan 28, 12

bookshelves: adult-fiction, favorites, favorite-writers
Read from January 16 to 28, 2012

This beautiful haunting novel is overlooked by its predecessor, the equally gorgeous White Oleander. So many people have reviewed this novel in relation to Janet Fitch's first novel, and while I find it unjust and plain wrong, many people want more of the same, it seems. They always want the same story told over and over again. It happens with all art, really. I do not associate myself as part of that group.

Paint It Black is painful to read at times because of the exposed pain and anger of Josie Tyrell. After Michael's suicide, she struggles with the question of after. What is she to do with all this darkness in the wake of her boyfriend's death? He was the reason for her happiness, for her hope. When he is extinguished from the earth, so does her source of happiness and longing. Janet Fitch doesn't sugarcoat the aftermath and instead lays the grim reality upon the reader, the effects of a person who's committed suicide.

*some spoilers*

Along with the fresh death of Michael in her mind, his mother also becomes a source of torment for Josie. Meredith tries to strangle her in Michael's funeral. She constantly calls Josie's home only to hang up. The vampire (that's what I call Meredith) sneaks her way into Josie's home and steals every living reminder of Michael, only to leave it unattended in Michael's old room in the Faraday home. Josie and Meredith are like two snakes circling each other, ready to pounce and tear each other apart. Yet they continue to talk to each other. Something pulls them together, and that something is Michael.

Michael, as it turns out, is not a saint. After his suicide, Josie discovers many of his secrets. He lied to her about not knowing how to drive, not liking sports, being a virgin, not speaking to his father. This deception slowly makes her aware that she is not to blame for his death. His demise rested in his inability to love himself. He was a perfectionist, one who compared himself to the greats. This constant criticism drove him to depression and ultimately to his suicide. He knew he could never be perfect, but is anyone truly perfect? Even the greats have imperfections. But perfectionists become obsessed with the ideal of flawlessness. And most of them don't make it.

There is a sad message about this book, but a very true one. When someone we love dies, we don't know how to move on, how to live, or we don't even want to live. But we have to. We have to make that person part of ourselves in order to move on. We can't forget them. But we also cannot obsess over the tiny details, asking ourselves if we could have done something different. Josie becomes Michael by the end of the book and her transformation is beautiful and hopeful, like a pink sun rise after a night of storms. It is not easy, but it has to be done. If we don't, we end up dead, too.

The Faraday house is such a symbol of death, it is frightening. Michael's grandfather died in it. There is Michael's room, a tomb left untouched. And Josie almost dies in the pool. If she had remained with Meredith, I really think that Josie would have ended up dead. Because Meredith reminded her of everything she did wrong instead of all the good things she did. Yes, she made mistakes. But so did he. How can you compare which is worse: cheating on someone because he recoils at your touch, or lying to her about your past? There really is no sense in comparing both. It proves that no one is perfect, that we all have flaws and we all have moments of glory.

There's more I would write but it would be way too long. Bottom line: Janet Fitch is amazing and Paint It Black is on my favorites shelf. She writes the human experience: suffering.
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Quotes Vanessa Liked

Janet Fitch
“That kind of tenderness couldn't be permitted to last. You only got a taste, enough to know what perfection meant, and then you paid for it the rest of your life. Like the guy chained to a rock, who stole fire. The gods made an eagle eat his liver for all eternity. You paid for every second of beauty you managed to steal. ”
Janet Fitch, Paint it Black


Reading Progress

01/25/2012 page 84
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