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"Who was I, really?" she asks. "I was the sole occupant of my mother's totalitarian state..."
on 26 January 2014
“The body is the only reality,” thinks Astrid, as she watches over her friend who is giving birth, to a baby she knows she will have to give up for adoption. “I hurt therefore I am.”
This is a book filled with pain and hurt, real hurt, the kind that makes you ache in your mind as well as your body. It’s not a book you will like very much, but it is a book you won’t be able to stop reading and in the end you’ll be glad you got to read it. You want very much to come upon a phrase that tells you that the protagonist has received some balm, some safety, some calm. This is an intensely realistic book that tells you of a child and her mother. The mother is a poet – and a kind of monster of self absorption. Her mistake is to believe she can get away with murder when her boyfriend throws her out. She will not rest until she has taken revenge. Astrid is a child and she is the one who pays when her mother is taken into custody. Now begins the trial of being a foster child. In one foster home the children are housed apart from their foster parents and consider themselves lucky if they are fed once a day. In another home, Astrid is attacked by neighbourhood dogs and badly scarred. In another she is shot by the jealous mother in whose care she has been left. I’m not going to say much more about the plot because to dwell on it inevitably reduces what can be said about misfortune of this kind.
Astrid’s mother is in prison throughout this book, but she is a presence who cannot be denied. Her notoriety dogs Astrid’s footsteps and poisons her life. As she grows older Astrid learns to acquiesce in what she cannot control. It is a dreadful lesson that does not always stand her in good stead. This is an unrelentingly dark book, as tense and expectant as any thriller, and as beautifully presceient and gorgeously written as a book of found poetry. Fitch never overwrites, she has a fantastic sense of how to work a story to the bone. Her prose is rich and delicate. It is hypnotic, challenging, complex, and moving. I recommend this book wholeheartedly. It takes you by the guts and makes you want to cry, but it is shorn of sentiment and self-pity. Read it.