What happens when you stop refusing the truth.

Out shopping for birthday gifts for my niece last week, I picked up a copy of Alice Sebold’s The Almost Moon. I finally started reading it two days ago, and I’m having trouble keeping myself from cancelling my 8-year-old’s birthday party tomorrow so I can hole up in my study to finish reading.

Right now, glancing at the front cover of the copy on my desk, I see the words haunting, searing, and brilliant  used to describe the book, and really — anything by Alice Sebold can be described as such. She’s got this utterly unique voice to her writing, a quiet voice that screams the truth at you on every page. Her other books, The Lovely Bones (a novel about the brutal rape and murder of a teenager and what happens to her family in the aftermath) and Lucky (a memoir of her own equally brutal rape and beating and its aftermath when she was 18 years old) are just as haunting, and just as honest. They are, for me as the mother of daughters, harder to read, but still worth it. Life isn’t always easy; neither should our reading material be.

In The Almost Moon, the subject changes to one that’s a bit easier for me (the relationship between a daughter and a mother who is mentally ill) but still resonates in a particular way. My own mother may not have been as crazy as the mother in this book, but it’s close enough. And in the end, it’s not having a crazy mother that’s the hardest thing to handle — it’s STILL LOVING that crazy mother no matter what she does that’s hard. Oh, how I understand that part. And oh, how I wish I didn’t. Here’s an excellent passage:

I walked to the center of my front lawn and lay down, spreadeagled. I looked up at the stars. How did I end up in a place where doing such a thing marked you for crazy, while my neighbors dressed concrete ducks in bonnets at Easter and in striped stocking caps at Christmas but were considered sane?

I let my shoes and purse fall from my hands. Only a few stars were out. The earth was cold beneath me. “There are children starving in China,” my mother had frequently said to me when I gorged on food.

“That doesn’t mean I’m not hungry,” I whispered now. I thought of her face when I had brought Jake from Wisconsin to meet them. He had been the first, and last, direct challenge to her power. She had welcomed him with a floor show so extreme that is was almost painful to watch. She forced herself to smile and bow and scrape as if he were the lord of the manor and she merely a lowly thing. Why hadn’t I seen the truth? She had a steely resolve that surpassed anything Jake and I might build. Our swizzle-stick empire was so fragile in the end. “The only thing you’ve ever loved is you mother!” he had yelled at me. I had refused this truth, brought my hands up as if to stop a blow. (pp. 88-89)

The novel is, essentially, a chronicle of the events of the day when she stops refusing this truth about herself. Or at least it is, so far. I’ve still got about one-third of it left to go. I could be completely wrong. But whatever it is, it’s still worth reading. Hell, I’d say it’s worth owning. And I say that about less and less books these days. And even if your mother’s not crazy, this book will still make sense. Because, crazy mother or not, haven’t we all had those moments of clarity — when whatever screwed-up thing about our lives we’ve been denying becomes suddenly undeniable? And aren’t those moments always filled with utter insanity?

That’s what Sebold captures for us and forces us to look at, and no matter how hard it is to face it, somehow she shows us that we can still land on our feet. That we’re brave enough. That we CAN do this. Pick up a copy of anything by Alice Sebold, and see if you agree.


2 Responses to “What happens when you stop refusing the truth.”

  1. 1 Mom #1 September 21, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    You always stumble across the best reads. I have about 3 books on my reading list that you’ve recommended on your blog. Keep ’em coming. 😉

  2. 2 SabrinaT September 21, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    OK, This one is on my list! Let’s hope I can find a copy at the library..

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