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352 pages, Hardcover
First published September 2, 2020
“Everything is broken and messed up and completely fine. That is what life is. It's only the ratios that change. usually on their own.”
"But the thing about labels is, they're useful when they're right because," I carried on through her attempt at interruption, "because then you don't give yourself the wrong ones, like difficult or insane, or psychotic or a bad wife."
I saw shame and hope and grief, guilt and love, sorrow and bliss, kitchens, sisters and mothers, joy, fear, rain, Christmas, gardens, sex and sleep and presence and absence, the parties, Patrick’s goodness. My striking unlikeability and attention-seeking punctuation.
I could see what I had now. Everything people want in books, a home, money, to not be alone, all there in the shadow of the one thing I didn’t have. Even the person, a man who wrote speeches about me, and gave things up for me, who sat beside the bed for hours while I was crying or unconscious, who said he’s never change his mind about me and stayed even after he knew I was lying to him, who only hurt me as much as I deserved, who put oil in the car and would never have left me if I hadn’t told him to.
When I told Peregrine I was writing a book that was constantly turning into a love story set in an ugly house, he said, “First novels are autobiography and wish fulfillment. Evidently, one’s got to push all one’s disappointments and unmet desires through the pipes before one can write anything useful.”
That was the root of the giant misunderstanding that was us getting married: the fact that he thought I was so uninhibited, fun, a skinny person interested in fashion, an attender of magazine parties, and I thought he had a sense of humor and didn’t take immense amounts of cocaine.
PATRICK TEXTED ME. It was still the day after Ingrid’s wedding, the afternoon.
“Do you like old movies?”
“No. Nobody does.”
“Do you want to see one with me tonight?”
He said he would pick me up at 7:10ish. “Do you want to know which one?”
I said, “They are all the same one. I will come outside at 7:09ish.”
There was a bar at the cinema. The film started but we never went in. At midnight, a man with a mop said, sorry guys.
That is when I began to think of Patrick as the cure. By the end of our marriage, I saw him as the cause.
I stayed there and read so many spines, then one by one I started taking books off, building a pile in my left arm. My selection criteria was threefold. Books by women or suitably sensitive/depressive men who had made up their own lives. Any book I had lied about reading, except Proust because even with everything I had done I did not deserve to suffer that much. Books with promising titles, that I could reach without having to stand on a chair.
By summer I had read four and a half pages of Ulysses and all of Lee Child. Patrick took me out to dinner to celebrate. I told him the shit James Joyces turned out to be all of them. During dessert, he gave me a library card. He said it was a present to go with the £144 worth of Jack Reachers he had already given me.
I got out one book. An Ian McEwan that I thought was a novel and put it in a drawer when I realized it was short stories. I called Ingrid and told her I had accidentally invested in two characters who would be dead in sixteen pages. She said seriously. “Who has the time?”