Sunday, December 30, 2007

"Running fast needs my crying breath."

and everyone always dies

I don’t know whether it was the title or the name Ursula Hegi that reminded me there was some book she wrote that i always thought i should read (tho i couldn’t remember which one) that made me want to read The Worst Thing I’ve Done but something did. And i’m glad i did. It is a story of childhood best friends who become lovers, spouses, adulterers, and betrayers. Daughters who are also sisters and mothers. It is the story of the enmeshed families we create (but aren’t all true families entangled and enmeshed?) I found myself inhabiting this book in a way that i live so few, i found my mind wandering sometimes and that i would have to go back to read pages again, flip back to the beginning; not for lack of interest but because the novel would recall so many things in my own life (or at least make me think of them~because i’ve never lived a life like this).

  • Things like:when my best friend attempted suicide in high school and i was so angry at her

  • didn't remind me of, but made me think of, again, how and why, i don't seem to keep any of my friends from childhood, or highschool, only my best friend from college, and only a few from previous jobs. Do we just drift apart? Am i so unlikable? So unimportant? Or are friendships not that important to me?

  • the two times in my life when men have stood in front of me and forced me to choose, then and there, between them and someone else. Both times it seemed so surreal (one time i was on ecstasy, one time i was on mushrooms~that might have made a difference…) The first time i was twenty-one and i choose my boyfriend over my friends simply because i knew they would forgive me and he never would (which was proven to be true.) The second time was out in the desert where a bunch of bands were playing and my some guy from my past (the guy who had given me the mushrooms which i had decided to take when i was to drunk to make such a decision) had a brother from out of state who had a grudge with the first-date i was with (how they knew each other~i have no idea). GuyFromPast made me decide between him and FirstDate to drive me home and it all reminded me of the first time.

  • It reminded me of digging for clams on the beaches of Alaska (and having~and eat~clam chowder later)

  • of the pain, the realness, the seriousness, the trauma, and the life of childhood. People always talk about the carefreeness and innocence of childhood but those people must forget what childhood really is.

  • of the Take Back the Night rallies i would go to in Ann Arbor when i would feel such a feeling of power and solidarity

  • or peace rallies i would attend at the beginning of the war when we all felt so alone in our cause

  • or of the times i say (usually in my head~but sometimes not, when i’m drunk~”hey listen, chickie”

  • and all the warring voices i hear in my head (just kidding on that one~sort of…)

Not that any of that matters or makes any sense to you but this is for me, right (and no, as semi-anonymous as this may be, i'm not yet ready to share the worst thing i've done~or even figure out what that is)? I want to remember what i thought of the book when I write about it here. But isn’t that what books are supposed to do~draw you in so completely you forget where they end and you begin. At least certain books?

Annie listens to two talk radio psychologists with conflicting views on life and relationships even when the radio is off (and talks back to them, saying “hey listen, chickie…”) She and her husband Mason constantly bet on everything as well as one up each other on the worst thing they’ve done for the day, or the week. They are raising Opal, the daughter of Annie’s parents who were killed on their wedding day in a car accident in which Opal was born by caesarian section, as their own. The novel is told in the different voices of Annie; Mason; Opal; Jake, their best friend from childhood; and Stormy, a friend Annie’s mother called sister when they immigrated from Germany (the narrative switches often between first person and omniscient.) The book is also interwoven with what amounts to what would be a long suicide note from Mason who has hung himself shortly before the novel begins (though the action switches back and forth between past and present.)

All the voices of this novel ring so true. I love when an author is able to write the feel child’s thoughts feelings and without falling prey to writing in a childish voice. I think Hegi is able to get into the mind of each character without being overly sensitive or cold to any (except maybe Mason but perhaps that is appropriate with his death…) I felt a great understanding of relationships here.

Perhaps somewhat depressing to some, but well worth it. Maybe i'll have to go check out some more Hegi novels now. Just ever increasing my pile...

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