Have just finished reading Sunday Clothes by Thom Lemmon and I'm mid The Woman Who Can't Forget, A Memoir by Jill Price and 13 Steps Down by Ruth Rendell.
So far my library trip this month hasn't exactly lit up my world. Sunday Clothes is a novel about a woman caught between the faith of her father and her fiance. Both Christians of different denominations believing the other is destined for hell, albeit with only slight differences in theology. Ultimately the woman, Addie, chooses to elope with her fiance and join his church. Her father disowns and disinherits her never to speak to her again nor to meet his grandchildren. And the fiance? Cheats on her with another woman from church and leaves her and their kids. Obviously there are lots of twists and turns and side stories along the path of Addie's life. The book is set at the turn of the century and historical history is usually a great start for me. I was looking forward to the examination of Christians turning their passion against one another and what effect that has on families and on society. Unfortunately, as you can see, the book ends up making both of these men of faith into weak and disappointing characters. Neither one seems able to make anything of their relationship with God that effects the real world in a positive way. They only use their church as a means to divide lines and claim superiority. I'm not saying this doesn't have a ring of truth, I only say that at the end it was a disappointment. God loomed large in the first chapters and faded with a sad sigh by the end. Addie's relationship with God was never examined and I didn't feel her pain had resulted in a true understanding of Christ. It was just sad; although I believe the author's intention was to create a character who rises above the petty male religiosity that had surrounded her to make something better for herself and her children. From my perspective, the religious right looked like cruel hypocrites and the only banner being waived was a subtle nod at feminism. Would I recommend it? Not necessarily. Not just because of a disappointing story line and I wasn't even actually offended. It just wasn't a compelling read.
The Woman Who Can't Forget is the memoir of Jill Price. Jill is in middle age now but as a young child her memory became highly acute and she literally cannot forget. She recalls every moment of every day and can bring these memories back intentionally with a calendar date and also continuously as she smells, sees, hears things that trigger her thoughts. Fascinating case. I was drawn to the book when I realized it was written by a woman whose case studies I have read, although she was clinically identified as A.J. Naturally this person's experience is so bizarre one can't help but find it interesting. She brings about some important points such as her extreme and exact memory making relationships challenging because every subtle hurt, indignation, disappointment, even childhood discipline remains in stark reality within her head including the experience of the emotions as though they are happening presently. Without the natural loss of memory we all experience, she is unable to experience distance from her life's traumas. Experiences as a three year old that in adult perspective are not exceptionally traumatic events, like being present at her baby brother's bris, remain a source of terror as it is still experienced in the same intensity as that toddler with the attendant emotions. The emotional memory is not affected by the adult prospective. This makes forgiveness harder and creates more situations in life that make her uncomfortable. Ms. Price has been studied for many years by scientists and doctors and so clinically, there is a lot of information which she shares. The whys and hows of her condition remain a mystery. This book is interesting to be sure but not a page-turner. The clinical aspect is interesting to me but at home, I am really looking for the emotional connection. In this case, I am not finding it. She begins to explain the impact of memory on her life but somehow it isn't brought fully home. Perhaps the author is choosing to keep this portion of herself protected. I want to join her to understand what this has meant in her life personally but just before she steps toward that vulnerability she backs away and returns to clinical data. A worthwhile read? Really, that depends on if the subject matter speaks to you. Rather than a memoir this is a slightly personal account of a clinical study in my opinion. From any perspective, this woman's brain is amazing.
13 Steps Down is plain entertainment. A murder mystery, if you like such a thing, which I do. I'm not expecting any insight spiritual or otherwise. Brain candy, if you will. The main character, Mix, is obsessed with a particular serial killer about whom he has read every book written. He decides to move into the area that the killer stalked forty years earlier and finds that the neighbor, street and house are all demolished and replaced with a new subdivision. Even the street name has been changed. Although this is disappointing he still feels drawn to the area and ends up renting a space in an old mansion from an elderly woman who, he finds out in passing, once knew his murderer idol. The guy is nuts. I'm on page 107 and he has just bonked his date on the head basically because as she was talking away he began wondering what the killer, Reggie, would've thought of her. He becomes basically overwhelmed with a psychotic kind of empathy and decides, clearly, this is why Reggie had to put the hurt on his victims. In short, they were just too irritating to live. (With which I can also empathize.) So now he has this dead chick on his floor in the old mansion of the woman who used to know the murderer and he's feverishly trying to retrace his hero's footsteps to figure out what to do with the body. That's as far as I've gotten. So I guess I don't know yet if I'm recommending 13 Steps Down and I'm certain there are several of you who already know you're not interested! I'll give you my final thoughts next week and in the meantime, keep in mind that there are people out there who are just too irritating to live. Just ask Hannibal Lechter.
And have a happy Friday.