I’d long nurtured the private suspicion that I was an outcast not because I was inferior, but because I was exceptional; that the fulfillment of my purpose awaited activation from the universe; that I just needed to wait. And now, as simple as a music box clicking open, it was time.
Abby Graven abandons stale Michigan, feeling she has awoken from some ‘prolonged, dank dream’. Her deep connection to her once best friend Elise (now a rising star, actress) never felt truly severed, not with her deep dreams. If it’s true we are all one being, then the dreams could very well be communication through the subconscious. As a once promising art student, Abby’s ecstatic states of being were the norm, fueling her work, something she hasn’t felt in her numbed days living at home, doing nothing. All of that changes when Elise, at their school reunion, tells her ‘Abby, Abby, I’ve missed you so much.” and “I’ve never had another friend like you in all these years.” Tipsily she tells her if she is ever in LA, in the offhanded way people do, to give her a call and they’ll hang out. Adding “I hope we can be close again someday.” Drinking loosening defenses, nostalgia causing warm fuzzy feelings while reacquainting ourselves with dear childhood friends, who can blame her?
With there being “a different story in my blood”, Abby’s dreams intensify as does her watching thoughts of Perren. The dreams keep coming, they are signs of where she needs to be, destiny. With the phone number Elise put into her phone at the reunion, she calls her from the Airport and tells her “I’m in L.A.” What can Elise do but give her address and invite her over, what else but let her stay?
A ‘disturbance’ within Abby as Elise casually throws around how she started going to Perren’s place, as if she didn’t know how important he was to Abby. As if he were her discovery! Calling herself an artist, old jealousies prickle at Abby’s flesh, for nothing could be further from reality. She catches up on Elise’s life, sorting fact from tabloid fiction, sharing intense intimacies. Looking at books by Jung, drawing as if afire, something is coming alive again within her. Abby is like a ghost from Elise’s past, the two pick back up where they left off in childhood. Elise seems to want confirmation of her talent, her friend to soothe her as the arrows of fame pierce her. She soon gains a bigger role in Elise’s life, as her assistant. But this isn’t what she wants for her future, her dreams are speaking to her, guiding her to a rich spring.
Abby isn’t content to shadow anyone, Elise seems to want her to share her work and to stop hiding, as she has been doing for far too long. But her ‘plans’ for Abby are an insult. It gnaws at Abby that Elise plays at being ‘deep’, there is more than an edge of competitiveness. She may own the shallow world of celebrity, acting, fame but how dare she attempt to best her in plunging the soul? There is a tug of war here, as there often is in friendships, I want to lift you up, but I don’t want you to surpass me. We all have our roles, and crossing over into another’s territory can be akin to thievery. There is a love/hate burbling on the ground they share.
She immerses herself in Elise’s life, but she wants her own stake in meaning, an authentic existence. Being the ‘ever the supportive friend’ becomes more of an act, a role she downright disdains. Is Elise’s admiration superficial too? Female friendship turned ugly, will it require erasure of one’s happiness in order for the other to rise? The Rhizome story-line is fantastic, the obsession with dream recall, the pure art of children Perren surrounds himself with strangely surreal. Is Abby sinking into a sort of madness? That ending is so bizarre, and yet a perfect fit. Her dreams as translations are bleeding into her waking life, there’s no denying that. Are they premonitions?
Maybe it’s better to keep some room for yourself when you long for intense connections be they with lovers, or pals. Friendship shouldn’t be submission, and yet it is. Someone seems to be the ‘alpha’ in friendships as much as romantic relationships, but eventually the person who submits, changes their mind and takes the lead. Yes, add this fine book to your summer reading list! I need to look for other books by Lauren Acampora, what strange tales she spins and the writing is rich. I am sure the reviews will be mixed, neither character is lovable but there is something fascinating in their decay and selfishness. I categorize the novel as surreal because of the dreams. The excerpt I shared above is perfection and sums up Abby’s character in ways a thousand situations never could. What a writer!
Publication Date: June 21, 2019