I’ve been blogging for a while now and I’ve never really considered this blog as anything more than a place to keep track of my bookish life. As my children can attest, I buy more books than I’ll ever be able to read – unless I keep my wits about me until I’m 100. Still, you can never have too many books, right?
I thought I’d try something different in 2012. I am going to try to post every day for the whole year. This poses some immediate problems as I have a couple trips planned – one coming up early in the new year. I am not one of those smart phone gals – not really a cell phone gal at all – so when I’m away from my desk, I won’t be posting. That said, I will then double up on posts to catch up….so I can meet my goal of 365 posts in 2012.
I have already started to stockpile book-related stuff and I am looking forward to sharing it with you beginning January 1st.
Back in the mid 7os, when made for TV movies were the rage, Linda Blair starred in one called Sara T: Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic. I’m sure it’s incredibly cheesy now, but I remember thinking that it was shocking and heart-breaking back then (and, yes, I realize I’m dating myself!) See for yourself.
I love the fact that all this stuff turns up on YouTube!
Love You Hate You Miss You by Elizabeth Scott is an updated take on teenage drinking. It tells the story of Amy whose best friend, Julia, has been killed in a car accident that Amy feels wholly responsible for. At the start of the book, Amy is just being released from Pinewood, a teen treatment center. She’s back home with her parents, high powered people from whom Amy has always felt distant. She has to return to school and continue to see her therapist, who insists she ask and answer some hard questions about her relationship with Julia.
Some of Love You Hate You Miss You is written in the form of letters to Julia. Amy’s therapist thinks it would be a good idea to journal her way to recovery, but Amy decides that she’ll write to Julia instead. The rest of the novel is a first person account of Amy’s attempts to fit back into a life she never really fit in to before.
Instead of a ‘movie of the week” feel, though, Love You Hate You Miss You seems authentic. Amy is 16 and she sounds it. She is trying to make sense of her life, but now she has to do it without her best friend. She drank because it made her feel less awkward, more confident. Of course, the truth is alcohol just masks things temporarily – when the high wears off, you are who you are.
Amy has no choice but to come to terms with her parents, her life and herself and Love You Hate You Miss You allows that to happen without talking down to its intended audience.
Although there is a murder mystery at the centre of Tom Franklin’s novel, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, it isn’t what kept me reading.
In the late 1970s in rural Mississippi, Larry Ott lives with his parents. Larry’s an awkward kid who spends his spare time reading Stephen King novels and trying to ingratiate himself with the students at school. His father owns the local garage, and while Larry admires the way his father can tell a story, he and his dad aren’t close.
Then Silas Jones moves to town. Silas and his mother live in a shack deep in the woods, property owned by Larry’s father. A tentative friendship blossoms between the boys. Then, when the boys are in high school, Larry takes a local girl to the drive-in and she’s never heard from again. There’s no evidence to prove Larry had anything to do with her disappearance, but serious damage is done to his reputation.
Twenty years later, Larry operates his father’s garage but has no customers because of his tarnished past. Silas returns home to Chabot as a constable and another girl goes missing. Larry is the obvious suspect.
It sounds like a murder mystery and that is part of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter‘s appeal, but the book is more than that. I felt a great deal of sympathy for Larry, for his awkward relationship with his father – a man he tried to please but never could. When the story opens, we see him lovingly tend his mother’s chickens. He’s built them a contraption, a “head-high movable cage with an open floor” which he could move around so the hens would always have new grass to graze. Not exactly the actions of a cold-blooded killer. He also forms a relationship with a petty criminal, Wallace, out of sheer loneliness.
The story alternates between present-day and the boys’ shared past. Of course, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask why Larry didn’t stay away when he had the chance, or why Silas came home, but I still think Franklin handled their relationship, its secrets and revelations well.
Fireless is the country where we live. Every day Momma teaches us something new about it.
Frances is 18 and something of a loner. She lives with her parents and two younger brothers in small-town Alabama. It isn’t until the new boy, John Mullinix or Nix, arrives at her school that Frances’ life cracks open. Frances has been living in the shadow of a traumatic event – an event so horrible that she never talks about it and has, in many ways, surpressed its horror.
Frances’ best friend Ann Mirette insists that Frances tell Nix about her “first family,” but Frances is understandably reluctant. She really likes Nix and one senses that Frances doesn’t form attachments easily. She’s afraid that if she tells Nix what happened in Fireless, he’ll bolt.
Breathe My Name is a beautifully written book about facing your past and freeing yourself from its terrible hold. I don’t want to spoil the novel by spilling Frances’ closely guarded secrets. She’s been protected by her parents for eleven years, but the past has a way of finding you even when you’re trying desperately to hide from it.
I gladly went along with Frances on her journey to adulthood but I do have one niggle with the book. I just didn’t buy what happened in Charleston. The book had this beautiful rhythm going and Nelson deftly handled the past and the present, but the climax of the novel just felt out of place and Carruther’s motivation seemed like an afterthought. One of those: okay now why would this guy behave in this manner, wait, let’s make him an obsessed psychopath sort of solutions. I would have been just as happy if after he set Frances on her journey he was never heard from again.
Still, in the great scheme of things it hardly matters. Breathe My Name had lovely things to say about family and the courage it takes to confront your past and, more importantly, forgive yourself for surviving it.