my absolute darling

23022200_10156077848123392_1064469993_nMy Absolute Darling was a very difficult book to read. I would not recommend this book to anyone who has ever been sexually or physically abused. In the very first chapter, I thought about not reading the book because there is some pretty graphic sexual abuse. I felt slightly uncomfortable the whole time I was reading because there were some brutal, disgusting, and just sickening parts in the book, but once I looked beyond the shocking violent scenes, I discovered there was a beautifully written story about a resilient young woman.
From the book cover, “A harrowing story of bravery and redemption. With Turtle’s escalating acts of physical and emotional courage, the reader watches, heart in throat, as this teenage girl struggles to become her own hero- and, in the process, becomes ours as well.”
Turtle does become a hero. She is a fourteen year old girl who lives alone with her abusive father. She hates herself. She is paralyzed with self-doubt, hesitant and afraid. She never spends any time with anyone except her father, except when she visits her grandfather. She hides the abuse and doesn’t tell anyone what happens to her because she fears what her father will do. She is isolated from her peers. She even believes at times that it may be her fault or maybe there is something rotten inside her that makes her father abusive. When she thinks about fighting back or running away, she thinks of how much bigger than her he is, how much stronger and smarter and more experienced. She lives in a constant state of fear.
As the book progresses, Turtle begins to realize that she isn’t a child anymore and that this isn’t the girl she wants to be. She wants to survive. She says, “Taking your own life in your own hands is the hardest thing you can do.” Part of the reason she begins to feel his way is because of a friendship she begins with a boy she meets in the woods, Jacob. The friendship opens her eyes to what her life could be like away from her controlling father.

Turtle’s father is just the most horrible, cruel, bitter and angry man. He is in a constant state of rage at society and completely against the outside world. Listening to his long rants, it is obvious that he is mentally unstable. Martin himself had a troubled childhood. There was something Martin needed from his own father that he just didn’t get.
This book is not for the faint of heart. I was pulling for Turtle the whole way, never understanding why she didn’t run when she had the chance, but desperately wanting her to finally get away from her father. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but be warned, this is not an easy book to read. It is dark, disturbing, sadistic, full of awful language and just heart-breaking. However, if you can get past the darkness, you will find a powerful and exceptionally well written book from a very talented writer.

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salvage the bones

22751165_10156050808483392_1249325416_oSalvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward is a brutally honest, raw, emotional, eye-opening and powerful story about a poor black family living in Mississippi as Hurricane Katrina head their way. The main character of the book is a fourteen year old heroine named Esch. She lives in a rundown shack on a piece of property they call The Pit with her three brothers and her father. Their mother died seven years ago giving birth to the youngest son, Junior. The father is an absent alcoholic who is often angry and drunk. The siblings are close and have pretty much raised their little brother Junior and themselves.

Esch discovers very early on in the book that she is pregnant by the boy she is in love with, one of her brother’s friends, Manny. He is definitely not in love with her and has a girlfriend and Esch is heartbroken about it. I felt so bad for her, being a poor, lonely, fourteen year old girl with a dead mother and low self esteem going through the devastating news she’s pregnant alone.

There were a lot of times in the book where I really wished I could look away but couldn’t. There are some bad dog fighting scenes. Skeeter, the oldest brother has a pit bull named China that he enters in brutal dog fighting contests. He loves this dog more than anything and I could not believe he would put her through such a thing. China has just had puppies and Skeeter spends all his time taking care of her and the newborn puppies. China is a big part of the story.

Near the end of the book, Hurricane Katrina arrives, bringing complete destruction and devastation. The family barely survives. The author gives us a very up close and personal look at what the victims of hurricane Katrina had to go through.

Ward’s writing at times was very poetic: “His skin was the color of fresh-cut wood at the heart of a pine tree.” “The terrible truth of what I am flares like a dry fall fire in my stomach, eating all the fallen pine needles.” “The sky burst to color above us, and then the sun sank through the trees so that the color ran out of the sky like water out of a drain and left the sky bleached white to navy to dark.” “To give life is to know what’s worth fighting for. And what’s love.” There were some lovely passages.

Parts of the book were a little difficult to read and when the book ends you don’t quite know the fate of everyone. Overall, it was a very good book, just not for the faint of heart.

In Honor of Rosa-Lee

22554503_10156038889168392_904288068_nToday is my grandmother’s birthday and the first one that I won’t able to celebrate with her in person. When i think of words to describe my grandma, these are the ones that come to mind: kind, loving, caring, generous, unselfish, special, sweet, giving, beloved.  She lit up a room with her smiles and laughs and gave her love to everyone through her hands and her hugs.

She was a hardworking woman her whole life, starting with farming and ending up working at the converse plant.  I had an endless supply of converse sneakers as a child. She was the perfect example of a strong, southern women. She went to church every Sunday, wore her pearls, cooked big delicious country meals, put her family first and shelled peas and canned vegetables in the summer.  I was the only person in the family who liked to eat corn on the cob and she always froze a few bags of corn on the cob just for me.

She always told me how much she loved me, how much I meant to her, how beautiful I was, how proud she was of me and I knew she meant these things from the bottom of her heart. I can only hope that I said those same things to her enough. I will miss sitting on the couch beside her, holding her hand, laying my head on her shoulder and feeling like the most loved and special person in the world. You could just feel the love coming out of her body.

She was a huge part of my life from the time I was born until she died. She never missed any of the important events in my life and always gave me presents for my birthday and Christmas. She was always so excited to see me and so sad to see me go.  There just aren’t words to explain what an amazing and rare person she was in this world. She was always there, a loving shoulder, a helping hand, a ray of sunshine. I can only hope to be half the person that she was and she will forever be my favorite person.  There will always be a hole in my heart that no one else could possibly fill.  Happy Birthday in heaven, Grandma. I love you.

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Mrs. Fletcher

22251436_10155998166083392_1225992379_oThis is my first book my Tom Perrotta, but I look forward to reading the rest of his books that have been sitting on my shelf for a long time. Mrs. Fletcher (Eve) is a forty-six year old divorcee who just dropped her son off for college and returns home to an empty nest. Eve is witty and funny and I liked her immediately.  She is lonely and seeking ways to fill the void so she begins watching porn at night and that leads to a sexual awakening of sorts.  “She wanted something else-something different-though what that something was remained to be seen.  All she really knew was that it was a big world out there, and she’d only been scratching the surface.” She decides to take a class at the community college and quickly develops friendships with the others in her class. “The important thing was that she was here, trying something different, meeting new people, making her world bigger instead of hunkering down, disappearing into her own solitude.”

The class she takes introduces us to a whole assortment of other troubled individuals. Margo is the instructor of the class. She is a transgender who is struggling with acceptance from the world and confidence within herself.  “She didn’t really feel middle-aged. In her heart, she was a teenager, still learning the ins and outs of her new body.  Still hoping for her share of love and happiness and fun, all those good things that the world sometimes provided.” “She was there to show the world what happiness and freedom looked like.  You glowed with it. You did exactly what you wanted to.  And whatever costume you wore, you were still yourself, unique and beautiful and unmistakable for anyone else.” “What she wouldn’t have given back then (as a teenager) to hear a trans adult tell her that she wasn’t alone, that happiness and wholeness were possible, that you could find a way to become the person you knew in your heart you truly were, despite all undeniable evidence to the contrary.”

Meanwhile, Mrs. Fletcher’s son, Brendan is having a hard time at college. Eve says of Brendan: “He presented himself to the world- as a big, friendly, fun-loving bro- a dude you’d totally want on your team or in your frat.” Even though Brendan comes across this way, it becomes clear that he has a lot of built up issues, a lot of them to do with his father who left the family for another woman when Brendan was younger.  Eve: “…something had gone out of him in the process (of divorce), all the boyish softness and vulnerability that had touched her so deeply. He just wasn’t as nice a person as he used to be- not nearly as sweet or as kind or as lovable- and she couldn’t forgive herself for letting that happen, for not knowing how to protect him, or how to fix what was broken.” “The divorce had left her with a permanently guilty conscience that made it almost impossible for her to stay mad at her son or hold him accountable for his actions.”

Brendan begins to struggle with fitting in, finding friends, and keeping his grades up. “One thing you realize when you’re on your own is how happy the people who aren’t alone look.”  His father comes for a visit during family day with his wife and Brendan’s autistic step-brother, Jon-Jon.  He says of his step-brother, “the whole time he was screaming and thrashing around, I kept thinking how unfair it was the my father loved him so much and held him so tight- way tighter than he’d ever held me-and wouldn’t let go no matter what.” Brendan is jealous of his step-brother and desperate for his father’s love and attention. He has felt neglected by him his whole life.

By the end of the book, most of the characters have managed to find some sort of happiness and understanding. I think this quote from the cover sums up the book perfectly: “a moving and funny examination of sexuality, identity, and the big clarifying mistakes people can make when they’re no longer sure who they are and where they belong.”

“You feel what you fucking feel. You don’t have to apologize to anyone.”

“You couldn’t turn away from the truth just because it ripped your guts out.”