Nicole's Reviews > One D.O.A., One on the Way

One D.O.A., One on the Way by Mary Robison
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Dec 14, 2011

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Read in December, 2011

I'm really not sure what to make of this one. It's a jigsaw puzzle of tiny little pieces, chapters a page, half a page, a bulleted list, two sentences long. Jarring transitions. The fragments add up to something bigger, yes--an image of post-Katrina New Orleans; a warning about the hazards of carrying on simultaneous relationships with identical twins; a sense of many layers of desperation in both these characters and this place, some unmistakable and others muddled. Or, if not muddled, their purpose in the context of this story is at least unclear. Not that I'm trying to hate on the desperation, mind you. Desperation is juicy story stuff. It just works better for me if it's relevant desperation, I guess.

The cool thing about these little sips of chapters is that reading them is a bit like watching a tennis match in which balls are being lobbed in from nine different angles at once. There's no time to process where they came from, let alone hit them back in the same direction, so I'm left watching them bounce haphazardly around, wondering which ones will collide first and where. It's fascinating in the same way that watching an imminent train wreck might be fascinating.

The other cool thing about such short chapters is that each one has to catch attention--this can be up to three chapters per page that need to jump out and grab us, which leads to some pretty sharp lines of prose. Examples? Of course I have examples:

"Where do you keep the paper cups for baking cupcakes?" she asks me.
I say, "This is Mars and we're on it."
"They're colored paper cups," she says.
I say, "Oh, those. They're in the drawer with my parakeets."

One of the doors hangs open and she's motioning her cigarette smoke outside. Without conviction. With no real success.

I don't know for how many minutes I've been sitting out here watching, too jittery to turn the engine off and go into a store and buy things. Equally unable to drive the fuck away.


Like the narrator in that last quote, the prose is jittery, which in turn makes me jittery. I feel like I'm dancing around something with it in all these brief and, at times, only tenuously connected, bits of prose.

Which leads to what might be my biggest disappointment on finishing this book: I can't figure out how this series of snapshots of these lives and this place lead logically to the end that we get, and this leaves me scratching my head a bit and wondering what the heck I just read.
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