Friday, April 27, 2012

Review: Stop Pretending by Sonya Sones

I was fourteen when I found Sonya Sones's Stop Pretending hiding on the shelves of my small-town library. My mother had had a psychotic break when I was six weeks old. She was subsequently diagnosed with schizophrenia and institutionalized. For as long as I could remember, I had been tiptoeing around the gaping hole in my life. I knew hardly anyone else in the same situation.

This is the book that told me I wasn't alone. In beautiful, wrenching, spare poetry, Sones paints a picture of a child's life, lived in the shadow of a mentally ill loved one. Her anger, confusion, grief, love, and resentment bleed onto the page, as vividly as I remember from my own childhood. This is the book that told me it was okay to feel all those things at once.

I will always love it for that.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Review: Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis

One of my all-time favorites, C. S. Lewis's TILL WE HAVE FACES is unique among his works. It is a dark, complex retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, focusing not on the beautiful Psyche, but instead on her ugly older sister Orual.

Lewis creates a beautifully realized world, a gritty land of myth in which threads of truth are woven into the tapestry of paganism. Like his world-building, Lewis's characters all being capable of both good and evil. Orual in particular is one of my favorite characters ever: ugly, strong, loving, selfish, courageous... A warrior and a leader, in defiance of the physical unattractiveness that caused her to be deemed "worthless" as a child. She makes big mistakes, and she does great things, and in the end her life is defined by love in ways she didn't even realize. Anyone who doubts Lewis's ability to write well-rounded female characters should meet Orual.

When pitching this book to others, as I often do, I tell them not to be intimidated by its depth and complexity: Yes, it is different from Lewis's other works, and slowly paced in places, but it is a beautiful tale and well worth discovering.