Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
A girl is abused by her stepfather. Hmmm that sounds familiar. I continue to be impressed with Dorothy Allison. Some writers humble me with their brilliance. Others I can relate to, and can aspire to write like them. I could see myself writing like Dorothy Allison....pretty straightforward, with just enough moments of poetic clarity. I just want to remember some quotes:
Daddy Glen smelled of sweat and Coca-Cola, of after-shave and cigarettes, but mostly of something I could not name--something acid, bitter, and sharp. Fear. It might have been fear. But I could not have said if it was his fear or mine. I could not say anything. I only knew there was something I was doing wrong, something terrible. He said, "You drive me crazy," in a strange distracted voice, and I shuddered but believed him.
"She hates herself," Mama told us when Reese repeated what Deedee had said. "And I don't know that God has much of anything to do with it." She gave me one of those sharp, almost frightening looks she seemed to have developed over the summer. "People don't do right because of the fear of God or love of him. You do the right thing because the world doesn't make sense if you don't."
Aunt Raylene's house was scrubbed clean, but her walls were lined with shelves full of oddities, old tools and bird nests, rare dishes and peculiarly shaped rocks. An amazing collection of things accumulated on the river bank below her house. People from Greenville tossed their garbage off the highway a few miles up the river. There it would sink out of sight in the mud and eventually work its way down to Aunt Raylene's, where the river turned, then rise to get caught in the roots of the big trees along the bank. Aunt Raylene said the garbage drew the fish in, and it was true that the fishing at her place was the best in the county. The uncles went to Aunt Raylene's to catch carp and catfish and big brown unnamed fish with rotting eyes and gilded fins that people were afraid to eat. Uncle Earle and Uncle Beau would put out their poles with little bells on the lines and stand in the tire smoke to drink whiskey and tell dirty stories. The bells would tinkle now and then, but they didn't always stop to get their catch. Sometimes the whiskey and the stories were too good.
Psyche in a Dress by Francesca Lia Block
The universal stories of women in love, immortalized in the archetypal Greek myths, these are written in verse in modern day mythical Hollywood. Very clever way to point out that many of us look to celebrities to fulfill our archetypes. This may sound forced and contrived, but it works quite well. The verse is very smooth, easy to read aloud, in fact required. A couple of friends and I were talking the other week about how not everyone experiences this kind of love, the transformational love of Psyche's journey toward Eros. When one does, this story is oh so very helpful. When it happened to me at the age of 30, I had the synchronicitous good fortune to come across She by Robert Johnson, a Jungian analyst. This tight little book of fiction might do just as well, and I loved the way the author of Weetzie Bat incorporated the stories of Echo, Euridice, Persephone, and Demeter as inclusive of Everywoman's love journeys.
That moment of awakening to the god Love:
Is beauty monstrous?
If so, then my sisters were right
His beauty was so sharp it could have cut
out my heart
He lay naked, sleeping on my bed
How could it be?
Why had he chosen me?
I wanted to run and hide from him
As I stood amazed, a drop of wax from the candle fell
and touched his bare shoulder
He cried out and lept up
His face filled with pain
"I told you not to look at me," he said
"My mother was right"
No girl wants to hear those words
He was so bright, a conflagration
I had seen too much
I had seen the god
I was not
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Watching the movie inspired me to read the book. Like any book by DWJ, worth reading for a fantasy reader. In the movie, you get the idea the wizard knows the old woman is the girl he met in the town, not so clear in the book. The ending differs significantly from the movie in an interesting way.
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
A girl dies too young. Sixteen and never been kissed. She's died to find herself on a cruise ship crossing the Nile. Snippets of Egyptian lore flavor the story, but this does seem to be a world created mostly by the author. When people die, they begin from the moment of death to age backwards. Injuries heal by aging backwards. People find their calling and work for self-fulfillment. People can view their living families through magical telescopes, paying 1 eternim for 5 minutes. Because she is so young, Liz Hall doesn't want to accept her death. She hasn't loved yet, hasn't got her driver's license yet, and hasn't yet accepted she can do these things while aging backwards in Elsewhere. She even tries to contact her living family, a forbidden and dangerous act. Doing so begins to open her heart to accepting her rebirth in this new life. Neat take on post-death world. (YA fiction)