Friday, November 16, 2007

The Almost Moon

Author: Alice Sebold
Type: Fiction
Shepnerd Rating: 2 stars

In her memoir, “Lucky”, Alice Sebold recounts the true story of how she was raped during college (and the tragedy of the campus police offer who told her she was “lucky” because another woman had been killed) and how she recovered. It’s a shocking and healing book as she muses about her violation and her alcoholic family of origin. In “The Lovely Bones” she tells the story from the point of view of a raped and murdered girl who watches her family from Heaven. It seemed she was speaking about the way rape affects everyone around the incident. I liked her previous books tremendously. So I bought “The Almost Moon” expecting further brilliance – what I found was nonsense, and I hated it.

“The Almost Moon” is not about rape – but it is messed up about sexuality. It’s about growing up in an abusive home, and the way it can leave claws in your heart that keep pulling you back into the insanity if you don’t let go. Specifically, it’s about matricide. Helen Knightly, the main character, is care-taking for her ill and abusive elderly mother when she “snaps” and kills her. The rest of the book alternates between the crazy path she takes after the murder (involving casual sexual encounters, going to work, and seemingly framing someone for the killing) and flashbacks of her childhood dominated by her crazy, critical abusive mother. The mother’s insanity is realistic, but the rest of the situations – the neighborhood men who storm the house trying to throw the mother out – the father who has another house he goes to – the gay aging neighbor who gives her alcohol and is her only ally – are so far-fetched it’s ridiculous. The only reason I read this book til the end was to find out if she will get caught and punished.

Why 2 stars then? Why not 0 or 1? Because some of it is absolutely right, and it’s written beautifully. Cathy suggested I hated this book because it was “a little too close to home”. As the child of an abusive family, who escaped to college much like Helen did, I saw a lot of her feelings grounded in my reality: The fear and dread of going home when the school day ended, tip-toeing around every corner so you wouldn’t draw attention and violence your direction, and the way hurt, fear, and love all mix together inside you. In the book Helen calls the days she senses an outburst of abuse from her parents “hard days” as in “It’s a hard day”. I used to call them “bad days” – as is “that was a bad day.” But the meaning, and the ways those days felt - were the same. She’s right about the setting inside that house and describes it perfectly. I’m very thankful I chose therapy and a relationship with God as opposed to Helen’s remedies (sex and murder) – but Cathy was right – some of this book is all too raw and real – those are the good parts – worth 2 stars.

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