“When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily.” Helen
What does a reader do with that kind of opening line? There is no risk of giving away the plot to this book to you, because Alice Sebold gives it all away on every page. This book grabbed me up, shoved me deep into the ragged Lazyboy recliner, and summarily cancelled my carefully planned day.
I had no intention of reading this book. I did not enjoy The Lovely Bones, skipped Lucky entirely, and only hauled The Almost Moon home because I got it for a quarter at my libraries book-sale. I am so deep into the research for Connor’s Reach I had not opened a novel all summer, and the back page promised me a no deep thinking empathy read of the familiar tangled relationships of family, friends, and issues I like to keep at arms length: old age, dementia, and care-giving. This is a worst case horror story about all three.
I was jerked inside of our narrator Helen’s racing mind and activities for a slice of life twenty four hours of a reality made terrifying because she appears to articulates in searing observations such a clarity and insight about parenting, friends, fathers, marriage, neighbors and communities, and especially her mother. She reveals her life, past and present, and may have you nodding in agreement with her as she struggles to move the cooling down body of her dead mother, then quickly betray your understanding. Helen will voice ugly thoughts, the kind of thought filled frustrations we do not/would not admit to having, the kind we keep secret even from ourselves about ourselves.
Helen has killed her mother off methodically, in detail, and as she says “easily” before we even get to the Second Chapter of the book. Is she a sociopath, psychotic, or a worn out life long caregiver pushed to over her limits? Are we, or someone we know, able to sympathize, identify, relate, or have experienced some of Helen’s frustration and in recognition have the ability to quick slip down to this unpardonable act? The question of who is capable of what leaped out of the book and lodged in my head. Just when I got a grip back on the storyline, Helen veered off again into carefully constructed, plausible, and suddenly totally inappropriate behavior.
As Helen prepares her coverup of what she acknowledges is a crime, she lays bare to us the public and private lives of her family members, neighbors, friends, and her own childhood. Innocent or not, anyone connected with her may find themselves thrust suddenly into being complicit to a matricide.
Neither our murderess Helen, or ALice Sebold linger over scenes or sentiments in this book. They have a lot to take care of in the 24hours that follow Page 1 Sentence One:
“When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily.”
A 291 page summer afternoon Lazyboy Recliner read.
Today’s Music: Guess Who “She’s Come Undone “