this is the second or third time for me to read this book… each time i read it, it seems a little different to me.
the first time i read it, i was terribly frustrated by the apparent aimlessness of the protagonist, how she seemed rather spineless, unable to take her own fate into her hands.
this time… this time the book seems more like life.
sometimes i wonder if we of the west are not ruined by fiction. most fiction (especially since the odious notion of the perfection of the Hero’s Tale structure) follows a nice, linear path from protag wants to protag gets, with of course necessary complications obediently ensuing to muddle things but only temporarily.
enough of this stuff crammed into our brains and we begin to think that’s what life is supposed to be like: an orderly good ship from point of embarkation to point of debarkation. but really, it’s more like doing celestial navigation in a very small sailboat–we aim for the north star, but we are at the dubious mercy of the currents.
in this story, we get a protagonist who makes very few clear choices, and even some of those are middle of the road. but reading it this time, i saw that many of her choices were making roads where none had existed before. she’s a master sailor smart enough to aim where she can, but sail where she must.
and this is a McHugh book. she writes with such beauty and precision and stripped-down unsentimentality. she writes about hard things sometimes, things it would be easier to turn away from, but she never glosses them with sugarcoating or paints them larger than life. it’s like a meditation: she just sits with these things, and examines them for what they are.
it’s a masterwork. don’t miss it.