I read The Lovely Bones a few years ago, and it almost broke my heart. If you haven’t read it, it’s the story of a teen aged girl who is raped and murdered by a neighbor, and it takes awhile for her body to be found. The oddly uplifting story is mostly of the girl watching her family from heaven, wanting to comfort them with the knowledge that she is OK now, and trying to come to terms with the transition from her earthly life to the non-corporeal existence where she now finds herself. It’s shattering and very well written. Alice Sebold’s other book, Lucky, is a memoir, and I believe mainly the story of her horrific rape, and her recovery, while she was in college. I’m not a brave enough person to read that book, though certainly tales of survival and recovery should be honored. (An interesting side note…I once read of Lucky that if rape were considered more honestly, it should be described as a form of torture, whereas in our culture, it’s more often looked at as ‘bad sex’.)
From that dark subject, Sebold has, in The Almost Moon, moved on to the subjects of matricide, mental health, and convoluted familial relationships. To include matricide in the list gives away none of the plot. The first paragraph of the book reads:
When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily. Dementia, as it descends, has a way of revealing the core of the person affected by it. My mother’s core was rotten like the brackish water at the bottom of a weeks-old vase of flowers. She had been beautiful when my father met her and still capable of love when I became their late-in-life child, but by the time she gazed up at me that day, none of this mattered.
So here we are, faced with a protagonist who is a murderer, and who goes on to perform other perhaps unforgivable acts in the 24-hours following. We try to like her, but it’s difficult, as she is a hard person with so many walls put up to protect her from the slings and arrows thrust at her throughout her life by her mother, she is a hard nut to crack. These walls have affected her life in so many ways. Her choice of profession (she’s a nude model for art students – her mother was a lingerie model for department stores); her marriage (her husband never felt there was room for him in her heart, she was so consumed by the love/hate relationship with her mother); and her children (she seems to hold them at arms length, both fearing their love, and fearing that she might become a younger version of her own abusive mother). So she’s hard to like. But she’s not hard to sympathize with. When I read of her childhood, I could see how those walls would be built, how they would grow stronger and thicker throughout the years.
I don’t want to say much more about this book, because I don’t want to ruin it for you. I was really sucked into this story, though, and I’m glad I gave up waiting for the library to get it in stock, and instead purchased it. Alice Sebold is a wonderful writer, and I look forward to seeing what she’ll come up with in years to come. Right now, though, I need to re-read the final chapter, to see if I can make some sense out of how she came to her final decision. I didn’t quite catch it the first time around.
I read The Almost Moon for my 2nds Reading Challenge. I’m tearing through these at an alarming rate, and I’m really enjoying them. 🙂