Saturday, February 8, 2014

Life goes on (and steals other people's boyfriends)

Book: Summer Sisters
Author: Judy Blume
Published: 1998 (Dell)
Pages: 399
In the Romance room of the used book store, I’ve been staring at and shuffling around a trio of Judy Blume books ever since I got there, and I finally gave in to curiosity and read one during the Southern Snowmaggedon of 2014 Oh My God Is That THREE WHOLE INCHES? impromptu days off I had a couple weeks ago. (That is not me making fun of how we do snow down here [we don’t]. I missed two opportunities to not hermit because I have no idea how to unstick my car tires from ice.)
I picked Summer Sisters because it seemed like a good balance between her restless housewife porn (Wifey) and teen angst (Forever) (I’m flying by the flaps of strange paperbacks here), although I didn’t bother for a long time because of the cover picture of two deck chairs which, in that Room and ladies’ fiction in general, means Heartwarming Times with People We Love and How They Help Us Through No Conflict Whatsoever and Trade Warm Affirmations To Confirm the Healing Heteronorms of Traditional Gender Roles or: Why All Anyone Ever Needs is a Porch and a Dog (Oh Yeah and a Man).
…am not the biggest fan of this sort of story.
So but this one didn’t fall too hard into that trap. It traces two girls, one with a rich family and one with a poor but neither with anything stable, who become friends at school and the rich one invites the poor one to summer on the cape and they fall into the usual and delightfully messy intimacy and problems of girls going through adolescence.
That is Judy Blume’s gift. She writes about growing up with bluntness that is artful in its bare truth and details, and that serves the first part of this book well in setting up the boys and the family ties the girls will deal with for the rest of their lives.
But then they get to the point where they’ve grown up, they’ve graduated high school, the poor one has fought her way to a good job in her dream city and the rich one has started her desperate globe-trotting for attention and meaning, and the boring reality of life as it naturally slows down into a pattern someone’s worked hard for or settles for because they can’t think of anything else hits hard. I mean like head-meet-brick-wall, what-the-hell-else-is-there realization that sends me into screaming existential crisis, especially when it’s a day I’m determined to do nothing and enjoy it. (Two things I’m terrible at: vacations and diets. When confronted with either, I immediately invent 5,000 things that need to be cleaned and/or cake tacos to be eaten.)
I put it down then, and picked it back up a couple days ago. Back at work and past the danger zone of the narrative, I read the fizzy ending without a lot of feeling one way or another. Everybody just lives, and it seems like it turns out okay for them except for the person who dies, and let’s be honest, that was foreshadowed pretty heavily.
I guess I didn’t like this book because I’m really tired of thinking about all it’s obsessed with, and also that it gets unfocused and generalized at the end. Pretty much all twenty-somethings have to do after they get home from their non-first-choice jobs is think about the next steps of life and what do they do once those are done and why are they considered so great, anyway? That’s a necessary part of being our age because from those questions come brilliance in the form of side projects, art, bold moves towards our actual first choices, and pure anarchic fun. But the process of translating those thoughts into those awesomeness-es is slow and painful, and I just don’t want to hear about something that goes nowhere anymore.
This is going in my donate pile.  

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