August 9, 2015

Among The Ten Thousand Things

"Maybe they're right, and we will be safer when we finally think of everything, of all the things that can do us harm, and make rules against them."

We women tend to lie to ourselves as a matter of course. Especially in their relationships and marriages. I know I have.  I lie to myself because I want to continue to believe in what I hold true. I lie because it's easier and convenient. I lie to continue to have hope. I lie to protect myself.  We turn to lying as a defensive mechanism of sorts. 

"The point is I could, I could do the easy thing, or I could do the hard thing.  I don't even know which would be harder.  Divorce? Do you know what a nightmare? And I want to be married. I got married because I want to be married, Jack.  Why did you?"

This is what happens to Deb Shanley in the novel. She lied to herself. She convinced herself that the affair her husband, Jack, was having with a much younger woman will eventually die down, and she need not worry about it again. She makes a decision to keep quiet about it and to work at being happy. But when a box of correspondences between the illicit lovers lands in the hands of her eleven year old daughter Kay, and then shared with her fifteen year old son Simon, she knew she could no longer hide from the truth.  "She was the victim, yes, but in front of her children, she understood at once what else she would become, which was a guilty party, and she began to notice her breathing."

As a mother, when my children become exposed and vulnerable, I know cannot I hold on to false hopes any longer, and more is necessary than inactivity and passive protest. My being a mother consumes me, takes over all other characters I play--wife and lover.

And then to face a mother's worst torment: to cause her child's anxiety, burden and resentment.

"What she couldn't do, she knew in that moment, was go to her father, who might never tell her mother, if he had the box, because how could she live with him then."

"She didn't even look at most of it.  That was something Simon couldn't believe, how his mother didn't pore over every page.  As furious as he was with his father, he was furious with her too, for reasons he couldn't explain yet but that had something to do with how her reaction was not enough, not nearly enough. Though he didn't know what would be."

"And I want Kay to be able to tell me what she's feeling.  I don't want Simon to think of me as a person who lets these things happen." 

What goes on in the minds and hearts of the characters tell more of the story alongside their manifested reactions. We go thru life with a veneer of normalcy masking the other life lived inside our head. Nothing seems unremarkably out of place on the outside, but there is restiveness and turmoil underneath.

Like Deb, I've tried staying on and letting time do its work. Hoping against the odds that I can fix whats broken. But resentment builds up, in danger of blowing up. Especially if efforts and motivations flow singularly from one side only.

In the end, life always go on for all.  We see truths in a different light. And things get resolved one way or another.

"An artist seemed the greatest thing one could be, also the purest, and her whole life shrunk next to that, her father the salesman, her mother the secretary. She hadn't learned to look for the difference yet between what one did and who one was. Hadn't even known there was a difference."

Very sensitive writing and deeply explored characters make for a good story involving a time-old tale of failed marriages.  "Among the Ten Thousand Things" is an impactful debut novel.

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