Friday, December 31, 2010

Lucky - Alice Sebold

I had to read ONE MORE BOOK for the Twenty Ten Reading Challenge. One that had to have come from a charity shop. Frankly, I doubt if anyone really cares if I finish this challenge or not, but it is like a burr in my britches to leave one on the table that I could realistically cross off my list. So here you are, on New Year's Eve. Is that an echo I hear out on the blogs today? Is anyone out there?

If you have read either "The Lovely Bones" or "The Almost Moon", I suspect you finished them and asked yourself something like "What kind of person could possibly write such a thing? This author is coming from a dark, dark place." Alice Sebold's books are completely polarizing. Some loved them. Some were completely enraged. She has an edge that many authors can't come close to emulating - she takes what is acceptable in polite society and pushes the boundaries out a couple miles. One thing you can't take away from her though...she is a compelling writer. Whether you are cringing, or crying, or screaming in outrage, you can't put her books down. This book gives you a peek inside Alice Sebold's young life, offering a few explanations.

Synopsis: When Alice was 19 and a freshman at Syracuse, she was brutally raped and sodomized. She was a virgin at the time. This book tells the story of this attack. Every stomach-churning detail, from the way the attacker smelled, every degrading action and word, every punch, every repulsive invasion. Alice recalls her experience with her friends, who supported her and who avoided her, her time at the hospital, the police headquarters, the difficulty of calling her parents.

Then begins the journey to recovery, through a life that will never be the same. Alice returns home for the summer to recover. She fills us in on her family history. Her father's emotional distance. Her mother's nervous attacks that she calls "flaps". Her sister, the over-achiever. When Alice returns to school the following fall, life doesn't get any easier. She suffers self-loathing. She is paranoid. She attempts to get her life back together. She attempts to act strong to ease the discomfort for those around her. Drugs and alcohol cushion the way.

Then she sees her assailant on the street and all hell breaks loose. There is a trial, and she must face her biggest fear - to stare down the man that ruined her life and call him by his name. Then she must destroy him.

"I let it come now, the thing that had been burning at the corners of my temples the night before and boiled beneath the surface all that year: rage."

My thoughts: Everything that is addictive about Alice Sebold's fictional work has been put to good use in what I would call "a journal from a rape survivor". Sebold doesn't hold anything back. She is fearless with this memoir. I warn you that at times it isn't easy to read. Rape isn't pretty, and it affects the victim in more ways than physical. Family members and friends are also collateral damage. It destroys one's sense of safety, one's sense of control, and sense of self. I guess I've always known this, but never has it been more evident than in reading the words of a very eloquent survivor.

It is important to know that she is the furthest thing from pompous or self-satisfied about her survival. She admits her fears, her irrational behavior, her digression into drug abuse. But she also acknowledges her desire to not back down against the despicable man who did this to her. Girlfriend kicked ass.

Despite the fact that this is a very tough subject, Sebold comes out the other side with a self-realization of her own courage, strength, and the ability to use her words to help others. After all, anyone who would use the title "Lucky" for a book like this has something to offer the world.

"But it is later now, and I live in a world where the two truths coexist; where both hell and hope lie in the palm of my hand."

For anyone who has been a victim of rape, or knows someone who has, I'd say this book is required reading. Even those not directly affected by rape will take something from this memoir as well too. Post-traumatic stress finds its way into lives through many cracks and crevices.

4.5 out of 5 stars


rhapsodyinbooks said...

I couldn't read The Lovely Bones and I KNOW I couldn't read this real life account! But I admire you for sticking with it - I know these accounts are important.

Molly said...

I actually bought this book on clearance shortly after I read Lovely Bones - but I have not had the guts it yet. You managed to write a very powerful review of an extremely tough topic!

Congratulations on your determination to complete one more challenge :)

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

The Lovely Bones just about killed me...and I REFUSE to see the movie. But, I want to read this. I don't think women, especialy young women, can read enough stories of other women's survival through even the toughest of circumstances. Great review!

Zibilee said...

Oh my! This does sound like an incredibly powerful and haunting read. I must read this one now, and I am with the above poster, The Lovely Bones just destroyed me. But knowing that Sebold can write like that, and that this book is based on a real life incident in her life almost makes me want to read it more. I honestly had no idea this book was even out there, let alone what it was about. This was a great review, I am going to have to check it out.

On another note, I also had to finish just one more book for this year, and it was The Lotus Eaters. I finished last night and all I can say is damn! Soli really knows how to write, and the last fifty pages or so, every muscle in my body was tensed. What an amazing read!

Happy New Year to you and your family, Sandy! I look forward to reading more from you, and getting to know you better in the new year!

Trisha said...

I have yet to read Sebold in part because of the polarizing you mentioned. It's entirely possible that I will adore her, and then I will be forced to read it all and be quite depressed and frustrated by her plot lines in a sort of masochistic way (like reading Room or Living Dead Girl). On the other hand, it's possible that I will absolutely despise her work, and then I'll be ticked off that I wasted my time.

Choices, choices..

Literary Feline said...

I have a copy of this one, but haven't yet read it. I have read and really liked her other two books. I am glad you found it to be a worthwhile book to read, Sandy! Great review!

caite said...

"What kind of person could possibly write such a thing? This author is coming from a dark, dark place."
What does it say about me that I never thought that? Maybe I live in a darker place. :-)

I just wrote on a comment on another blog that I have sworn off memoirs...but ok, this one tempts me too.
darn you.

Kathleen said...

This sounds like a must read for me but I will have to prepare myself for it. It is important for all of us to share these stories of survival.

Gavin said...

I read The Lovely Bones and that was enough for me. Have a wonderful New Year, Sandy!

Melissa said...

Lovely Bones was great and this one is on my shelf. I got the at the same time, years ago, but have been hesitant to read this because of the subject matter,

Marie said...

I've not yet ventured into Lucky, but it's on my bookshelves. Now that I've read your review, maybe I will be brave enough to delve in!

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

The Lovely Bones was a tough book to read but I am glad I read it through. Although I didn't much care for the ending, I thought the story was incredible and so glaringly gritty at times, and even whimsical in some of the dreamlike sequences of being in the in-between. I've wanted to read Lucky for quite a while but have always been hesitant, which is a lot like how long it took for me to read The Lovely Bones.

This was a really insightful review, Sandy - thanks so much, and I will definitely keep you posted once I get over my hesitation and I pick it up to read it.

Anna said...

I read this one awhile back, and I had a hard time with it. It's definitely powerful and heartbreaking and really depressing at times. I can totally see why she'd write the kinds of books she writes.