Helen Knightly is less shocked that she killed her mother than she is shocked to be calling her ex-husband to help her cover it up. Oh, it wasn’t planned, but it was done, so she calmly cleans her, strips her, and places her in the freezer to “keep” while she seduces her best friend’s 30-year old son. And that’s all before you hit the 100 page mark, ladies and gentlemen.
You know, sometimes you read a book that presents the darkness within people in a realistic way, whether teaching an outright moral lesson or merely giving insight into why good people may sometimes do bad things? This is not one of those books. This is just all darkness.
I bought my copy years ago, shortly after it was published, having enjoyed The Lovely Bones very much (see: a dark story, but with some lightness to balance and make it palatable). Since then, it has sat on my shelf unread and ignored as school work, book club books and trendy reads were always picked first. I had not read a single review or talked to anyone else who had read it. I had no idea what I was getting into.
This should have been a better book. There was so much potential in the story. I read it in just two sittings because there was so much I wanted to know, and I was so sure it was in there somewhere. It was not. I am beyond disappointed.
There were beautiful lines and insights:
“She looked up at me and smiled. ‘Bitch,’ she said. The thing about dementia is that sometimes you feel like the afflicted person has a trip wire to the truth, as if they can see beneath the skin you hide in.”
And then there was absolute crap:
“This was not the first time I had been face-to-face with my mother’s genitalia.”
(WTF? IT has a face?)
We never understand Helen’s motivation. As the story unravels, rather than empathize, I found myself liking her less and less. Even sympathizing with the batty mother from time to time. (She was obviously mentally ill. Have you considered not hiding her from the world and maybe getting her some help?)
Best I can say about this one: I’m glad I finally read it.
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Picador (October 16th 2007)
Note: I don’t typically write negative reviews. They just don’t interest me. This book however was on my 2011 TBR Challenge list, and as such I had committed to reviewing it.