Virtuoso by Yelena Moskovich

 

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And yet, there is an extra weight within the room, like a movement finishing itself.

This novel shifts so much from story and perspective that it may lose a few readers in the process but for those of us that like these little roller coaster reads, hang on! Two Dollar Radio serves up another gem of a novel in Yelena Moskovich’s latest madness. The novel starts with a dead body, but hang on…. This is a coming of age at the end of the Soviet era,  Jana tells us for 19 years she was ‘a simple Czech girl’ living under severe rule of tapped telephones, letters steamed open, people disappearing- soviet domination holding the people down. She was a ‘clean-handed little girl’, a very bored one, so bored that even dust stirring in the sunlight would be interesting until the new girl enters the scene. A little raven-girl named Zorka, the “Mala Narcis” a little Narcissus who can’t get enough of herself. This Zorka suddenly lights up Jana’s life with her feral behavior, what could be more thrilling? Where Zorka is wild and angry Jana is ‘solid, smart’. With communism cracking, people are free to entertain big plans, and Zorka has a future somewhere beyond, beyond making her depressed mother uncomfortable with her ‘weird behavior’, a place where her father’s fade from sickness doesn’t hover. Jana finds strength in Zorka, until she disappears.

To the future we go and find Parisian Aimée married to an older actress Dominique, lovebirds from the start but lately something is weighing her wife down. Something is souring. It seems to be a separate story-line but naturally will find itself weaved into Jana’s. Jana working is as an interpreter in Paris, she too finally had her own destiny to fulfill. Someone else knows all about her friend, the Mala Narcis, it’s time Zorka is back in her life, but did she ever really leave her?

The story of Zorka’s mother and her mental illness is told in Part two where we finally discover just where Zorka was sent, to America to live with her uncle Gejza and his wife Tammie. Too hot for her mother to handle after the grief of losing her husband and her grip, it’s a culture shock for Zorka. But even America can’t reign her in, she finds a band of misfits like herself, explores her sexuality, strikes out on her own.

Did I mention the chatroom? Who the hell are these two? How do they fit? HotgirlAmy and a very miserable wife Domminxxika? Chapters throw you around, which usually makes me dizzy and irritates the hell out of me, but for some reason it doesn’t in this novel and it builds until finally at the end there is a picture where the characters fit. How does Moskovich keep up with her own creations? This novel made me feel jittery trying to keep up.

Past, present, dream or no dream, full circle, broken cirlcle, a dead wife, a dying mother, a sick father, broken friendship, abandonment, communism, love… there is so much happening. This writer is all over the place, but I remained riveted. My happiest reading was spent on Zorka’s childhood and the electric thrum of her. What antics, what sorrows! No wonder Jana clung to the memory of the Mala Narcis.

Read it if you can keep up, it’s meaty even though I admit I am not fully sure I have it all figured out. It will exhaust some readers, but I can’t wait to read her next novel. I have a thing for strange fiction. It is beyond genre, a weird read for winter.

Publication Date: January 14, 2020

Two Dollar Radio

The Girl at the Door: A Novel by Veronica Raimo

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“After the girl came to see me, I couldn’t get rid of her presence in the house.”

Utopian islands can be just as corrupt as the imperfect, filthy, declining societies people long to escape, all it takes is a germ in their midst, but is the germ a false accusation or a rapist?  Miden and it’s citizens must never transgress against their rules, their society runs on adherence to it’s beliefs, and what’s a bigger violation than the accusation of rape? This act is a stain that can spread and destroy this perfect world. Here they live in a blanket of security, peace after the mysterious “Crash”, something happened in the larger world, and though ‘the worst is over’, according to politicians, it is Miden that “SHE” ( first just a tourist) tells us she wanted to live in, to be safe from the threat of the outside. “He” (the successful professor)  was already a citizen with ‘a prospect of a solid future’ when they met and fell in love.  Miden, where they are obsessed with statistics and the best place for “Quality of life”, encompassing “trust in the future, social equality, human rights, etc” but the most telling for this story is its supply of  “women’s freedom”.

The novel opens with “She” answering the knock of a visitor at their door, who asks her “Are you the professor’s wife?” 

“She” the girlfriend, doesn’t yet realize the enormity of what this former student, this skinny, pretty young girl is about to reveal. Pregnant with the professor’s child (carrying his very future in her belly), how does she face the ugliness of what this stranger is accusing him of, what it will do to this sheltered life they live, that they worked so hard for? Certainly the man she loves isn’t capable of such things, and why now? It was two years ago, in the past, right?

“Because I didn’t know then. Now I know.”

What is a crime, how do we come to understand that we have been a victim? What if youth was a blinder, and we didn’t know how sorely we were being wronged? What if the awakening to the crime happens when the wisdom of a few years sheds light on it? Is it then still a crime? Do crimes have an expiration date? Do people get to escape punishment because time was on their side, because someone didn’t know better how to protect themselves, if they didn’t realize what was happening at the time?  Is it a crime if someone met with you willingly, if you allowed it, didn’t have the sense to prevent it, to say no? What if it becomes a crime in the telling and others examine it and help you see the ‘affair’ framed darker? After all, she was a ‘young student’, isn’t that crime enough? Her youth, his position of power as her teacher?

Through “Him” it’s a wildly different story, from the very act of saving her panties ‘for months’. For “Him” it was a wildly erotic time and he can’t believe the ‘Commission” and most especially his girlfriend is taking any of this seriously. The absurdity of it all! This could cost him his enviable life in Miden, his very relationship with his pregnant girlfriend, his future! To him it was an affair (in the sense it goes against the student/ teacher rules, a sordid thing), ‘wrong’ sure, but an affair, not anything violent or criminal.

Who do we believe? With the accusation “She” goes back and chews on their relationship, from their first meeting to the pregnancy and everything in between, as if picking for clues for or against his character. “She” has a bigger role in the entire investigation, in whether he is ‘unworthy’ of being a citizen or not, to be banished or not. The accuser, and how “She”(the girlfriend) is irritated, annoyed by her, curious about her behavior, looking for ‘theater’, almost as an escape out of believing the worst about”Him” or as evidence of his innocence. This is a provocative moment in the novel. If you attribute it to our current news, wonder at the women who stand by their man, why, why the anger is often aimed at the alleged victim, it begins to make sense. It also lends people insight into why in some cases women wait, until they are adults, until they are braver- to take the steps to search for justice. On the flip side of the coin, what about the men? Are they monsters, are they guilty if in their head they are reading the situation, the acts completely wrong?

This is an engaging novel, but Miden itself sort of got in the way for me. I didn’t see it as a Utopia personally, the people came off as holier than thou, above humanity as trying to strive for some flawless society, I mean- who decides? Then again, what sort of world do we live in now, where people still blame women when they are assaulted? Hmmm… What about cases where there is consent, if you consent, how is a man to know he is hurting you? That is a question people still pick over. Throw youth into the mix, the awe of those in power, shouldn’t someone be reigning in their desires? Shouldn’t it be the person with the power, and yet too we are all humans and flawed. It’s a slippery slope.

What beats in me is the “WHY NOW”… that’s a current question in many cases, allowing disbelief, doubt in the accuser to slip in for many people. There isn’t just one answer.

It’s interesting to me that there isn’t naming of the characters, they remain HIM/HER, the accuser… I don’t know if it’s intended but it’s like you protect all parties without thinking about them beyond their sexual identity (male, female). Then I went off the rails and in my thinking, naming is vital- isn’t it? Particularly if that name is loaded, ‘rich, successful, beloved’ it absolutely alters how strangers look at an accusation. Naming changes things, for good and bad.  The reader feels sympathy for each of them, and disgust here and there. Just who risks the most? There is selfish thought, of course there is, we are the center of our story, anyone that disrupts our security, our future can easily be seen as the guilty party. It was engaging, but Miden was a weird society. You believe each of their views, even if they discredit themselves too.

Publication Date: October 18, 2019

Grove Atlantic

Grove Press, Black Cat

 

 

 

The Book of X: A Novel by Sarah Rose Etter

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“I’M NOT RELIGIOUS, but I damn well prayed”, my mother says, exhaling smoke over the kitchen table. “I rubbed the rosaries raw that you would take after your father.”

Cassie doesn’t take after her father, despite her mother’s desperately raw prayers. Born, like her mother and her mother before her, cursed by a rare inheritance of twisted stomachs in the shape of a knot that they conceal beneath their clothing. Living on a farm in the acres, Cassie’s father’s inheritance, isolated from the rest of town, the one place she doesn’t have to ‘stomach’ the shame of the stares of others. The thought circling my mind through reading was this, there is a time in many a young girls life that her stomach is twisted, in fear, in shame. On the land, their lifeblood is the meat quarry where her father and brother harvest meat from the walls of the canyon. Cassie’s curiosity about the place is a hunger, but like so many other things in the world, it’s not meant for the eyes of females.

Can I just take a moment to point out her mother’s unbearable unhappiness and disappointment about her life, her knot? The prayer and how devastating it truly is, just take away the knot and think on it. A mother that prays for her daughter not to be like her, that self-hatred passed down through generations. The “It’s time to take a look at ourselves with honesty” comment from her mother. Somehow looking at ourselves with honesty is to examine all the ways in which we fail to measure up to the physical perfection the world demands a worthy women has. The impossibility of resembling all those flat-stomached women in magazines… The knot is symbolic, well of course.

Most of Cassie’s school days are spent shrinking, keeping quiet, the only way those who are different can hope to be left alone- the shield of invisibility. Always though, there is trouble, the cruelty of peers, especially when you’re a born freak, a medical curiosity. Her escape are in visions of a happier existence, but the horrors of reality always await her. She studies the other students and there perfectly normal bodies, desperate to be like Sophia. Sophia is a friend, kind of, right? Isn’t she? Is she? As Cassie’s sexuality blooms, her body burning with the same desires as all young girls, she is shamed by her knot, even when a boy she’s had her eyes on secretly seems to return her interest.

The rawness of the meat, her entrance into the quarry like some wild animal, you can almost smell the bloodied mass, the ‘masculinity’ of it haunts the pages. “I like it when you listen to me,” Jared says. Doesn’t he just? Throughout the novel she wants to be loved, she wants to feel normal, to cure the knot because then… then everything will be perfect, she will be worthy of love. Because as things stand, she is only a thing to be used and discarded, a dirty secret desire. She better like whatever she can get. Sound familiar ladies?

Later, she lives her life going through the motions, disappearing, anonymous in the city. Just being a woman in the world and all the rotten luck that entails. She knows better than to ask for anything better than this, until there may be a chance for a cure. From this point on the novel left a lump in my throat, there is a moment where she is feeling great and a man shouts from the street, “What are you smiling about, you ugly bitch?”  Someone is always ready to steal your confidence, happiness. Cassie is absolutely shaped by her knot, denigrated by lovers, the ones not too horrified to touch her, apologetic for having that ‘woman’s burden, her knot’. All women have their own knot, it just isn’t physically visible.  The Book of X  exposes how society sinks it’s fangs into females of all ages, rips them to a bloody pulp and all the while she’s meant to apologize for what is done to her, as if there is a why.

In fact, women do it to each other too, in her co-worker who knows a guy that can fix her. Just fix what the world decides is ugly about you, then you will be of value, you will be over the moon with happiness and find a man to love you. Right. Because the world won’t just find something else to be repulsed by. I think it will hit women in what it doesn’t have to spell out about Cassie navigating her life, like all of us. There are moments as raw as the meat in the quarry. This is a hell of a book! A book too loud to ignore!

Publication Date: July 16, 2019

Two Dollar Radio

Mrs. Everything: A Novel by Jennifer Weiner

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“This life,” Cal said. “You have to give up a lot, I have family who won’t see me. It’s hard. It’s not for everyone.”

In the beginning, it is older sister  Jo “tall and gangly and everything she did was wrong” and little sister Bethie ” chubbie and cute” a child who “always said exactly the right thing” that complete the makeup of the Kaufman family.  Where Jo is closer to her father, Bethie is Mommie’s perfect darling, a child who doesn’t behave in the unnatural manner her older ‘tom boy’ sister Jo does. It is 1950’s Detroit and their new home is surrounded by families just like them, “birds of a feather” all perfectly flocking together in rhythm and God forbid you are “different.” No one tests their mother more than Josette, who doesn’t mean to be so difficult and really cannot explain why things that come easy to others is so hard for her. She can’t help but be herself, even when she tries to be the good girl her mother desires, catastrophe follows and boy does her mother make sure she knows just how much she fails to be the daughter she wants.

It isn’t only within her family that her nature brushes against societal norms. Friendships with other girls mean more than they should, her wants and desires for her future are thwarted by the times Jo lives in, and will chip away at her dreams of freedom. An athlete, a writer, liberal minded coming of age in a conservative world will whip her into an acceptable shape. Through betrayal of those she loves most, and of course responsibility to her little sister and impossible to please mother, Jo (like countless women before her) will forget herself in order to fit in. Marriage, children… she is finally a good girl, right? The world isn’t ready to accept a woman like her, to let her live freely. It’s not safe to be her true self.

Bethie’s beauty should make her world a tasty confection and guarantee her most fevered dreams come true. Her mother knows she’s meant to be something special one day!  A girl who everyone loves immediately, the perfect lil’ helper, people pleaser, someone whose very nature charms everyone in her orbit, why… what could possibly derail her future? Sometimes, a girl with so much appeal attracts nothing but danger, through no fault of her own. Bethie learns nothing stays sweet in an ugly world, and before long becomes the subversive daughter that Jo once was, refusing to settle in one place nor with a man. There is so much to taste in the forbidden elsewhere! If Josette wants to spend her life being content, tied to convention… well bully for her. No one is going to tame Bethie. Let Jo pretend!

This is a book about women, their options, the opportunities and lack thereof. The shaming when a daughter, mother, sister dares to look beyond the plans other’s have made for her. The disapproval she will encounter when she strikes out on her own, against the will of her mother/father or husband. The ever looming threat of losing your family if you chose anything for yourself that isn’t ‘approved’. The lessening that is expected when one becomes a wife, mother. Before long, you’ve lost yourself. Too it is about the abuse that girls welcome (according to the world, at least) or have to accept for the sake of survival.

The sisters who once had to support each other drift apart, each denying themselves their true natures. Life happens, it brutalizes and punishes in unequal measure. From an early loss both find themselves sacrificing their dreams and even innocence. It is a story about sisterhood, motherhood and in a sense, self-hood and how every choice or the transgressions of others, and the demands the world puts on us makes us who we are, for better or worse. The question is, can we come back to the self we once buried in order to be accepted?

What is more heartbreaking than thinking about the deaths we suffer, internally, of our many selves? The times Josette and Bethie came of age in were full of strife and civil unrest. Children who questioned their parents ways, be it a mild irritation such as why the fuss of dressing like some cookie cutter family, or the heavy, senseless, shameful weight of their parents racism weren’t exactly the ideal child. Children didn’t question the ways of the adult world, period. Step out of line, and you will be tarred and feathered. You were not free to love where you wanted, with so many constraints, this is why free love (social, sexual movement) was born. Many people bucked convention. Yet children eventually want to please, to have their mother/father’s love, sadly at the expense of their real selves. Other little boys and girls, they get too much unwanted love from some adults. It’s hard to write about this novel without giving away everything that happens, but it truly is a novel full of heartbreak and hope. When it’s your turn to be a parent, despite promising yourself you will do better than your mother/father, you can bet a child will introduce you to your weaker self. Life happens, and comes full circle and at heart it is a tale of two sisters that find their way back to each other.

Publication Date: June 11, 2019  Out Tomorrow!

Atria Books

White Dancing Elephants: Stories by Chaya Bhuvaneswar

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She’s probably my age, I realize suddenly, early forties, but she has not spent her life on mistakes.

This collection of stories by Chaya Bhuvaneswar is about more than being an immigrant or one’s ethnicity, it is also about feminism and LBGTQ women. From the start, the reader is on an emotional journey, living as long as it takes to read a story on the character’s breath. It begins with White Dancing Elephants, where a woman shares the aftermath of her miscarriage, gut wrenching and mind numbing, a trauma to think of what could have been, should have been. “Before my last morning with you, my love, I didn’t know rage.” Loss is a rage, a dead future. The writing doesn’t lessen in intensity, in The Story of the Woman Who Fell in Love With Death, there is a different sort of longing, a young boy relates a fictional tale with the loss of his own sister, the girl whom is never mentioned, and lives in the hidden photograph in his father’s sock drawer. Is she really a runaway, just what are the family’s dirty secrets? There is a line in the story that must express how many boys/men feel “Girls expected him to prove to them what boys were like: shallow, callous, laughing animals that could smell irresistible.” That in a book full of stories to make the unseen world of the female life visible, living particularly in the skin of women of color, in such an ugly world full of abuse and slurs, the author too was able to expose a vulnerability in a young male really touched me. Someone who wanted to be a boy good enough to rescue his own sister, heart wrenching! The body, how the female body is her own fault for every horror the world can think up to torture. It’s always her fault, isn’t it? How brutal and true the final line in the story (I won’t share it here, read it). I had a lump in my throat, thinking of what it means to be female in our world, thinking about my own daughter.

There are affairs and betrayals, fissures in friendship,illness, stories of sexual abuse, even if it’s just hinted at. Denial of one’s sexuality for the sake of family tradition, even if it means returning to India and ‘putting oneself in the ground’, burying oneself, rejecting our genuine identity and love for what’s expected. One of my favorites is Asha in Allston, and the ‘mannequin with hardware’ who definitely isn’t a HER! The horror in feeling jealous of perfection while trapped in a real failing human body, robbed of every future dream. I think I related in the sense that though there is no MALIN in my life, we women have a form of perfection in our face 24/7, and when illness enters… well… it’s that much more evident, of course in the story she lives with the ‘ideal female’ thanks to her husband’s job and genius. Tormented by the uselessness of her own body, impossible not to compare herself to this non-entity! Rage to turns to flame!

It’s an engaging provocative collection, the stories aren’t all about women as victims either. Sometimes they do selfish things, we’re imperfect creatures, as much as men, we just have to pay more for being human. As said in the life you save isn’t your own, “wrong decisions had all bloomed like seeds”. It got me to thinking about how much control we have, about decisions and chance how we often go against our own desires to please others, and about how much heavier choices are for females. Worse, about all the little girls in the world robbed of any choices at all, the orphan handler was pretty intense, dark.

A new voice in fiction, yes read her debut!

WINNER, DZANC BOOKS SHORT STORY COLLECTION PRIZE
WINNER, NARRATIVE MAGAZINE “TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK” FOR 2017

Finalist for the 2019 PEN American Robert Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection

Published October 2018

Dzanc Books

 

Deep River: A Novel by Karl Marlantes

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Anger at the senseless cruelty of it all kept her awake at night.

Escaping Russian rule, siblings Ilmari, Matti, and Aino immigrate to America joining other Finns in the hopes that they will find the perfect place to thrive. Ilmari is the first to leave Finland, to avoid being drafted in the Russian army he flees his homeland. In America, Ilmari is a devout man who builds a farm of his own and a blacksmith shop before his brother Matti follows. Helping his brother for a time with the running of things, he must make a life for himself. By Christmas finding work with the sole options being fishing or logging, he choses logging. Felling trees, a job that can crush a man, easy. With no idea how, he swears to himself he will one day have his own company! Last is Aino, seventeen- years old and desperate for work. Already having suffered for her revolutionary beliefs back in Finland, the fire burns just as bright now in America. She isn’t happy to settle as some man’s wife and men want a woman to care for their families not a maid. Marriage is still against everything she believes in, and if she ever marries, she has to feel love, hers is a heart that cannot in good conscience settle. There are more important things to her future, and her socialist desires. Life isn’t easier in America, everything is not golden nor as ‘free’ as she imagined. Instead, they meet with backbreaking, deadly work logging in the forrest of Washington, where workers are nothing better than slaves making money for others (capitalism). A staunch socialist, Aino is well read, and desperate to fight for laborers rights often at the risk of her very life. Conflicted by the expectations of women of the times (have a family, settle down) she’d rather take part in activism, even when love comes calling. Is it better to settle down, safer? She is fed up being a live in servant, did enough of that before, and marriage is much the same too. She works for a time cooking for hundreds of men at a logging camp, Reder Logging. It comes to be the hardest work she has ever known. The reality is often disheartening, even later when she is a wife living in cheap lopsided quarters, it isn’t enough to please her. She must occupy herself with a life full of purpose, helping others. Escaping the unrest of their own country only to land in a place where one must continue to fight for human dignity, America isn’t turning out to be the dream Aino envisioned. Women should know their place, and certainly not be slipping off for meetings threatened by raids! A man who works his fingers to the bone relies on his good wife waiting with a meal, the home clean and comfortable. She’s a feminist, a fighter, a woman who won’t be caged but I admit, she could come off as self-righteous and selfish at times too. Could motherhood settle her?

The men face loggers being killed, the equipment fails, people make mistakes that costs lives and no one is looking out for their safety. It matters to Aino. It is for ‘the common good’ and if she is called a communist, so be it, they must still fight! The powers that be don’t want strikes and of course will threaten those who dare strike with brute force. Naturally she finds herself jailed. The Koski  siblings will  rage against “slave wages, slave hours, and slave working conditions” and find their future as pioneers logging the vast forest of Washington. They will all search for their identity as they push for early labor rights or material success. From logging camps to fishing for salmon, strikes, Spanish flu, co-ops, the first cars, and captialism. Love and affairs, jail, unrest, starting families, and businesses in the new American dream. There is a lot happening in this novel that because of the historical scope it covers, the stories can sometimes leave the reader meandering. It is a rich, well researched historical fiction about the early days for Finish immigrants in the forrest and mills of Washington. More importantly it is a grim look at the fight for labors rights.

Publication Date: July 2, 2019

Grove Atlantic

Valerie: A Novel by Sara Stridsberg, Translation by Deborah Bragan-Turner

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A heart full of black flies. The loneliness of a desert. Landscape of stones. Cowboys. Wild mustangs. An alphabet of bad experiences.

Everything reaches it’s end, certainly Valerie Solanas reached her’s in a sad hotel room “last stop for dying whores and junkies”, and with this creative novel Sara Stridsberg brings her back to life, in the only way writers can, through exploring her past and freely using creative imagination. Valerie Jean Solanas, feminist and author of  The SCUM Manifesto shot Andy Warhol. Yes, that Valerie!  Her story isn’t focused on Warhol, nor should it be. Instead, we are taking a trip into the underbelly of her existence. The early sexual molestation by her father, her years as a student of science working in a lab with animals, her keen intelligence battling her declining mental states, the prostitution, the institutions, arrest, her lonely death from pneumonia… One can imagine why she had a deep hatred for men, a defiled child grown into a woman with no reason to have faith in man.  What was sex to her but survival, just like conversation, she could escape her body, go to a place where no one could touch her, she learned that at her father’s hands. A member of one in her club of hate, just like when she was little.

She didn’t succeed in her assassination attempt on Andy Warhol, but she hit her mark on that June day in 1968, his lungs, esophagus, spleen, liver and stomach were damaged and he never fully recovered despite living until his death from a heart attack in 1987 due to complications following gallbladder surgery. She wanted Warhol to produce a play, he passed it up- too outlandishly vulgar for him… he would pay for that brutal rejection! These are facts, but  it would do good to research Valerie if you want more than fiction, her life wasn’t a pretty existence, and I couldn’t help but wonder who I would be in her shoes. I remember reading about her giving birth to a child but I digress… this novel is all over the place and I don’t think it’s due to the translator, I feel it is meant to make the reader feel they are on shaky ground. There seemed to be very little stability in her life, nor did she ever appear to get the chance to be a little girl. If her prostitution is distasteful, if she was too much, too vulgar, filled with rage, who else can you blame but her parents?

The author keeps saying ‘and if you did not have to die’, but she did and along with the years of decay, so too died her chance to be a writer, a scientist and worse was the end of  her belief in herself. Maybe it’s not that she, like any of us, had to die, but so alone, in the ‘crap hotel’. What of her mother, Dorothy? Dorothy, Dorothy, are you there? Were you ever? There always needed to be a ‘fella’ didn’t there? Why didn’t you protect your daughter? It seems not even boarding schools, college was far enough away to change her fate. Her genius couldn’t save her, in fact, it likely fed the fury, for sometimes clarity is blinding.

She believed the world, due to men, had no place for a woman. She was a star that Warhol didn’t make, but who would forever be tied to him. Even years later she certainly didn’t seem to be sorry for her crime. He was simply a target all her years of pain honed in on. The novel is written almost like a dream, a terrible dream you can’t shake off. Soiled memories you want to deny, paste into a scrapbook and burn to ash, as good as forgetting. The shadow of death seems to be the only friend, at the end, in her corner. Death, an ever present  companion, showing itself in the blood she coughs up into her hand. The years reach further back one moment, Dorothy and Valerie in the desert, caught up in her mother’s disastrous love affairs, ‘known for her bad taste and bad judgement’, and then bam, we’re in 1988 again, in a sad hotel. It’s too late, Valerie is doomed, you knew this from the first pages. So many years spent as one of the drowning under psychiatric care, just one of many on the fringes of society, one of the forgotten… we cannot change the ending. Catch a whiff of complete ruin as it runs through the pages.

Why couldn’t she have taken her degree, let her genius shine? Can dissecting the dead, the trajectory of their lives provide us with anything concrete when it’s all just fiction? Maybe. Maybe it’s as close as you can get sometimes. How can you not feel a bit unhinged after reading Valerie? Not all readers enjoy non-linear stories, for me this scattered way of writing fits Valerie’s disordered mind and life. I keep picking my brain wondering how different the outcome would be today, better or worse?  Raw, painful, disturbing!

Publication Date: August 6, 2019

Farrar, Straus and Giroux