Benji's Reviews > Towelhead

Towelhead by Alicia Erian
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** spoiler alert ** One of the best books I've read in the last two years. The best part about the book is the difficulty/ease with which you can spread the blame. Everyone contributes to a real heartbreaking tragedy either through their laxity, disinterest or their efforts to take advantage of her and it builds to a very sad state of affairs, not to mention her own contributions that are not her fault but that add to the troubling nature of guilt, and her own needs and being unable to understand how to best fulfill them.

-Thomas is as much trouble as any of the older people in the novel, but being her age and not much more aware, he's likewise unable to fully accept the guilt or redemption that I wish to give him.

-The father very clearly wants the best for her but only makes matters worse, being so strict and violent as to push her further away and into more dangerous territory, the exact opposite of what he wished.

-the part when Melina and Glen wrest control of the situation, but the writer brings the conflict of it alive in a very striking way... you can tell they are making the rules up as they go, and are conflicted about just where the responsibility to protect her ends compared to the father's prerogative.

-just as compelling is to see the mom's remorse, and her inability to meet the new family, to see who had won what she had unwittingly lost.

-Jasira herself.. her greatest enemy is maybe her genes, which hoisted this powerful weapon upon her before she had the maturity and suavity to handle it gracefully. Then, having no tools with which to articulate the things happening to her, and it's like being stuck in her body, which she doesn't understand nad can only feebly manuever in. Especially when considering how she is surrounded by others that know much better about sex but are no less mature than she- a person in the oc ean, struggling to stay afloat and surrounded by sharks.

While reading INFINITE JEST, I was struck by the segment where a boy as an adult has the realization that he had blamed himself for his being raped. You've heard where others blame the victim, for being a provacteur with tehir clothing or soemthing, but this is a thing I hadnt sen before, where the victim blames himself. With that in mind, to see the same thing in a more drawn-out compelling way had me hanging on every word.

In this novel, you see the first few acts pass and you get the machine in place that drives the second half of the novel. This happens in an entertaining manner, though I disagree when anyone says there's much here that's funny. I hardly laughed--even from the first pages, the naivete of the narrator, the feeling of being stuck inside her, watching out through her eyes at what is about to happen but being unable to control anything is a horryfing experience--and so I felt wincing and deep empathy to be much more appropriate. Or else, it's the kind of laugh that you quickly regret as the implications start compounding: the laugh of the juvenile who hasn't yet realized the mess he's crawled into.

You start to think, how could this have been avoided? The tragic part to me appears that it wouldn't have taken a lot. What I enjoy about this book is that, the end result wasn't inevitable. People are smart and capable, but they all have their blind spots. I dont connect to literature where the people seem doomed from the first pages.

Likewise, this book seems to have a good mix of it all. It's all the same ingredients as a hundred other books but the pace & timing, the balance of each thing, the 'how' it all gets put together her seemed flawless to me. I started it in the morning and finished that same night, which is one of my favorite experiencs when reading.
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