Book 65 Completed
First, let me say: This book deserves its awards and accolades. I was entranced by the language and structure (even if it did take me 30 pages to find the author’s rhythm; and her introduction about how “un-conventional” her story is — even if publishers didn’t like it, she stands by her decision — was a bit pretentious and annoying), enthralled by the character of Simon — mute, young, tortured, kind, and sinister — and I moved between love and hate for the two adults Kerewin and Joe.
But this book was a hard read for me. Prior to having Elliott and another son (yup, it’s a boy!) growing, I might have survived this book unscathed. Not anymore. The child abuse is vivid and visceral — the violence so extreme that I needed to stop on occasion. Hurting children is so inexcusable that I loathe the idea of making an abuser sympathetic. The book wants us to see all these characters as having elements of goodness and evil…which is clear and well done…but, ugh, I hurt — I cried. I wanted to reach in and grab that fictional child and help him.
On the other hand…I understand losing your patience. Hulme’s characters are so well-realized that you can’t help yourself from feeling for all of them. Even at the penultimate moment, which literally caused me to be sick to my stomach, the reader feels pity, sadness. The book drops you into a situation and plays with your expectations of abuser and abused — I can’t tell you how I feel about that…I think it’s realistic…but it’s painful and it goes against my maternal instincts, which were on fire throughout these 500 pages.
It’s a stunningly intense read. My complaint (besides, I suppose, content — which isn’t a compliant per se), is that the last 1/4 of the book dragged in places. The readers are waiting for the thread of the story to pick back up, but it dovetails into a bizarre little mystic episode that seems out-of-place. Yes, the detour gives a lot of information about Maori myth and heritage, but I desperately wanted to get back to the heart of the story.
And it does get back to my real interests — the trinity of characters I needed to hear about. Maybe I would have ended it differently, maybe there was more to say, but Hulme’s story seems complete — I’m a little spent though. You can obviously tell the book got its hooks into me…I can’t believe how quickly I devoured it.