Driving with Dead People by Monica Holloway
Dysfunctional isn't a strong enough word to describe the narrator's family. Something is wrong with little Monica, but it doesn't play out until you're two-thirds of the way into the book. The story started slow and stayed slow through half of the book, but picked up speed when Monica reaches high school. Before that her childhood was dominated by a violent father and a passive-aggressive mother.
Her family was not poor-there were piano lessons and bikes and participation in extra-curricular activities at school. But I kept checking dates because there was no modern sensibility insofar as the mother was concerned; it was as if they lived in the '40's or '50's. Her mother, while not as mean as the father, was just plain suspicious. I never understand women who have children,claim to love them, and then live in a violent situation.
When the heroine begins dating, the authors mundane writing style works better because her experiences are a colorful enough balance: bad boys, gay boyfriends, married men and workaholics dominate her college years. All the while, the dynamic of her attempts to become closer to her three siblings, and parents, plays out. We learn how vile the father could be, and also how the mother enabled him. I loved the descriptions of her meetings with various loser therapists. Best of all, the author learns redemption not through forgiveness, but through cutting off her parents entirely, and forgiving herself for believing in them.
December 5, 2012 Warning: Revelation about to happen. Didn't mention above that the author's older sister suffers a severe breakdown as the result of memories resurfacing about her father molesting her. Revisiting this because the author expends considerable energy and many pages pondering whether she herself was molested. She mentions her mother slathering Vaseline on her and her sister's bottoms every night when they were well past toddlerhood, but she never asks the ultimate question? Was her mother molested as a child? Not that she would have gotten a straight answer from a woman who avoided all revealing conversations, but the question needed to be asked.
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