Lydia Millet wrote one of my top choices for the Longlist for the National Book Award, The Sweet Lamb of God, and I liked it a lot, but it has, what I consider, one of the lowest and inexplicably lowest ratings on Goodreads. That doesn’t deter me. Instead, it sort of suggests a kind of specialness I felt with it.
This novel had some version of that too, though I didn’t like this one nearly as much as I liked that one.
In this novel, our protagonist sits in a hospital that is deeply depressing and gross and fraught and tells of her life story.
Taking only 150 pages to do so, the story involves arrest for assault, the loss of a baby, a shipwreck (I think) and several other various, and serious, toils that lead her to this cell of a room.
What differentiates her from other stories like this, is that, through it all, she maintains a rather special and cheery disposition.
This a weird novel. The narrator feels simple, and in many ways she is. But, she never feels false or unrendered or placating, or rather, it doesn’t seem like the book condescends to her more or less overly simple way of life. It doesn’t celebrate it exactly either.
In a way, it reminds me of Charlize Theron’s character from Arrested Development: absolutely a manic pixie dream girl, but one that has to exist in the real world where there are physical and emotional consequences for the fractured and fragile way of life you live.