by Jamie Quatro
I am not sure what to say about this book except: it possessed me. And it landed directly on my Sacred Texts Shelf.
The book is written in first person, second person, and third person. It includes transcripts, diary entries, letters. Everything happens at once. Everything happens over a long period of time. It has all the makings of a mess and yet it is a masterpiece. The writing is beautiful, the structure is daring, nothing is off-limits.
It feels impossible to highlight passages because everything is so interconnected, but here is a sentence that made me swallow hard, especially at this moment in history:
When in the course of human events we the people in order to form a more perfect four score and seven years 1492 1517 1776 1865 1914-18 1929 1939-45 1969 1989 1991 2001.
To sum up a life, she lists what she finds in her grandmother's basement. This is a fragment from a long paragraph of objects:
Life magazines, Band-Aid tins with Cracker Jack prizes inside, shoe boxes with hardened photographs, all the horrified doomed ancestors.
And in describing summer, she's really describing her own inner storm:
It's the summer that destroys. The hot exhaled breath. Like the Angel of Death in the old cartoon the children used to watch. It gathers force. It knocks over the Adirondack chair and shoves together the long bamboo wind chimes strung from a branch, leaving in its wake a hollow Ohhh. At sunset the old black Lab barks hoarsely at the bright plate of a moon above a lit cloud, a storm system that will erupt overnight. His ears draw back, he sniffs the air and blinks, as if listening.
I have gone back to read what others say about this book. They each seem to be talking about a different book and none of them seem to be talking about the book I read. It's one of the reasons I love this book—it's as much (or more) about who you are as it is about what the book is. Some say it's about desire, others about infidelity, others about faith.
I will just say, it's about you.
About Susan Edsall
Writing is how I make my way through the thicket of what we’ve made of this planet we’re on. It takes me a long time and lots of words. Social media mystifies me. How do so many people have so much to say, so quickly, and with such resolute certainty? Read more about Susan >