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06 January 2010

holidays reading

while vacationing in egypt, i decided to take a break from the millenium trilogy, whose last book would be far too heavy to take with me, and read another book, 'the almost moon', by alice sebold. it was simultaneously uncomfortable and absorbing for me, because i have dysfunctional parents too, and this novel explores the complex ties between mothers and daughters, wives and lovers, the meaning of devotion, and the line between love and hate. 

when i got back home i googled it and found out that most people who read or started reading this book didn't like it. the critic reviews were also very negative about it. interesting, because i couldn't put this book down, so i read it in 3 days. in my opinion it's extremely well written and fluidity never ceases, despite the choice of stream of consciousness to explain the thought and actions of the main character during the 24 hours period just before and after she kills her demented mother. i do find helen to be a beliavable character. i find her narcissism and hollow but addictive love of her insane mother also believable. i do find how their is little to redeem helen in our eyes believable. this is insanity. insanity has its own rules. and sebold takes readers into this quite unpoetic mindset. it's a revolting read, but not without truths.

i also think that 'the almost moon' is a brave book by a courageous writer. after the phenomenal success of 'the lovely bones', which i loved, alice sebold could have chosen to write a novel in which she once again gave readers a sympathetic, utterly likable narrator. instead, she writes through the voice of helen knightly, and helen tells the reader, right from the beginning, that liking her is going to be a challenge. helen's behavior becomes more understandable as she narrates her story. creating a character who, at first read, appears vain and unempathetic, is to take the risk that a reader will not stick with the book until the end. but, as more of helen's story is told, one sees how damaged she was by a childhood in which her parents' demons injured her.

so, slowly the shadows of helen's parents' demons move across her skin. she grew up in a house of secrets but she makes her living as a nude art model, and yet, while helen is nude almost every day, she is rarely naked. she had learned to hide from the people who love her: her ex-husband, her best friend and her best friend's son, and her two daughters, as effectively as her agoraphobic mother had hidden from the world. i think that killing her mother forces helen out into the open, and sebold lets us see an imperfect woman who struggles with all-too-human issues albeit in a violent and extreme way.


  1. You are unstoppable today!!

  2. hehehe yes! well, you were complaining i didn't write enough. i guess you're happyh now, huh?


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