"When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily." (first line)
The protagonist/ narrator (a life model at a local college) murders her mother at the end of the first chapter. From there until the end of the first quarter, she is alone with the body. The police get involved almost exactly at the half way mark; the narrator goes 'on the run' with about ten per cent of the story to go. The plot is therefore mostly a classic three act structure plot.
The book is written in the past tense, from a consistent first person PoV. There are repeated flashbacks, mainly to the narrator's childhood: a large part of this book is an exploration of her relationship with her mother, a woman whose wants and needs dominated and controlled the lives of her husband and daughter. There is a huge amount of sadness here, in the portrait of an American suburb at the end of its life, filled with old people at the end of theirs, and the particular horror of the stifling atmosphere inside this family home. It is a bleak portrait of failure and waste and futility and the situation of the narrator, who has spontaneously murdered a woman who would soon have died anyway, seems inescapably grim.
The book is written in the typical American style with huge amounts of detail which works beautifully when she is murdering her mother; it certainly adds verisimilitude though it can be a little exhausting.
Some memorable moments:
- "The thing about dementia is that sometimes you feel like the afflicted person has a trip-wire to the truth." (Ch 1)
- "Not all of us grew up in the great Northwest, with a rock edifice for a dad and an undulating waterfall for a mother. ... Some of us pushed up through asphalt." (Ch 10)
- "The material consisted of an inscrutable pattern that seemed to adorn many women's bodies at middle age - a sort of dazzle camouflage designed to keep the eye from being able to focus on the actual shape inside." (Ch 11)
- "Flexibility did not, in the end, trump gravity. I lived on the borderline between a Venus just holding it together and Whistler's mother in the buff." (Ch 11)
- "Her house was spick and span and she had once pointed out to me that the best thing about having a cleaning woman was that they did what she called the 'first wave' and left her free to focus on the details." (C 15)
Although this is much less of a page-turner than Sebold's The Lovely Bones (another book with a murderous hook) the depressing portrait of the world is compelling. February 2021; 290 pages
|The review was written by |
the author of Motherdarling.