I’ve dumped my Kindle. Not really. I’m just taking a break from you, Kindle, and from my iPad on-the-side version, too. I just wasn’t ready for a monogamous relationship and I do so love holding a book, buying a book, folding down the pages of a book or going back to scoot around in a forgotten sentence from a few pages ago in a book. And I like loaning them or giving them when I’m done, too. And so, these were books, real books. read and in-the-midst-of reading.
I’d give this six stars if I could. It’s a literary memoir and yet it’s so much more and less than a memoir. It’s perhaps the tightest, sparsest book I’ve ever read, reminding me of an artist Margery Allingham once invented who painted magnificent pictures and then took away just a little here, and covered in white just a little there, until there was just a perfect echo of a picture left. That’s what Strauss has done; he’s given us just enough of his life and himself to release the part of him altered beyond recognition by an accident “half a life” ago, in which he killed a girl from his high school.
I love it, I love how he gives us all the layers of his thoughts, from the thoughts he wanted others to think he was thinking to the thoughts he thought he should be thinking right down to the ugly thoughts beneath those, and then, sometimes, even down to the scrapings on real emotion that are left at the bottom. He’s one of the writers I want to be when I grow up.
I don’t know how to justice to how much I enjoyed this book. I’ve been on a lucky streak with books lately (maybe because if I don’t like it, I just lay that puppy gently down). This is a book set back in the midst of my own childhood, but in the South, not Texas, and in a part of the south where the “outside child”â€”the child of a bigamist marriage or a long-term affairâ€”is just a usual thing, tough on the kids and the wives, of course, but so not-of-note that “ushers at funeral homes carried smelling salts for all the first wives discovering their counterparts.”
The outside child here knows about the daughter of the first marriage, but that fortunate creature has no idea until, of course (and this is no spoiler, it’s the gun on the mantel of the whole book) she does. I rooted hard for these characters, but loved the book right up to the end just the same. It’s also that rare combination of a page-turner and a serious read. Just so good.
Hanging out in Wendy McClure’s world, wherein one can pick up and visit Laura Ingalls Wilder sites and meditate over the jewelry box Laura got for Chistmas in On the Banks of Plum Creekâ€”which I would dearly love to doâ€”reminds me of the pilgrimage a friend and I once made to Jane Austen’s house. I’m as happily in Wendy-world as she is in Laura-world (a world I love, too) and I don’t want this to end.