Monday, February 27, 2012

Whales and more asylums

Book: She’s Come Undone

Author: Wally Lamb

Published: 1992 (Washington Square Press)

Pages: 465

This is my original entry into screwed up childhood-crazy person-sex-drugs-mental institution redemption narratives. I first read it when I was like twelve, which you should read as any time between early middle school and late high school because that shit is starting to blur together in memory as nature intends.

You should also read that as a very impressionable time in my reading life, where anything with sex and honesty and a girl who imagined mold growing over her food to lose weight she had gained while sheltering herself with junk and TV after being raped and who ended up the caretaker of a sass-talking eighty-year-old polka radio host as her happy ending sort of blew my mind.

Note that I sound jaded, and take that as evidence that Lamb’s first book has lost some of its original shock value. But note also that his honesty, for-the-hell-of-it plot building, and skepticism of any real definition of “normal” are still wrapped in a compelling human package that kept me from doing anything productive Saturday afternoon and all of yesterday.

I love how Dolores’s gentle stalking of her college roommate’s ex-fiancé delivers her right into what she thinks she wants, only to cling to its idealism too long before finally ripping free. I hate how she finally gives in to the “right” guy for her and ends up being rescued instead of making it on her own, although I love how she takes advantage of his crush on her to proposition him into becoming her sperm donor. But love finds a way, yadda yadda yadda. All of Lamb’s last chapters have that tying-up-loose-ends gloss that none of them actually need.

But Lamb is always excellent at making me care about his characters, and this book was only $1 at the Friends of the Library Shop that I always wander into because I can’t actually check out books in Lexington County, and I’m glad to have it on my shelves to visit like a friend when we feel like we need each other. 

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