I read this book, all the way amazed by the vitality of the writing, all the way trying to label it, to encase it in some sort of genre. I have decided to call this idealist realism. No, they are not mutually exclusive in my book, and believe me, when realism and idealism meet, spectacular ensues.
The protagonist (Tess) “looks like shit” most of the time and works as a cleaning lady and her love interest (Brian) has a construction company. They are working class, real people with even more real problems that make our real lives look absurdly fictional. They deal with abuse, drugs, absent parents, abortions, beatings and death. Still, although they live in a seemingly endless ”cold, cruel, frigid winter” nobody ever stops waiting for spring.
Tess drinks a bit too much, without apologizing or trying to make it look cute. But Tess is also an artist who sees the world in crayon and paint colors.
“I still can’t remember his name, but his hair was Goldenrod and his eyes were Sky Blue.”
For me this sentence was convincing enough. If it isn’t for you, then read further.
With her self-worth crushed to nothingness from childhood, Tess finds the strength to defend aggressively the ones she loves. She fights with God for them. Because Tess remains pure and beautiful all throughout a life in which she obsessively cleans offices, her past, bathrooms, sins, kitchens, a path for the future.
“The next day I cleaned, all day long. First my apartment, scrubbed every inch of it, from ceiling to floor. Then Brian’s. I called Laura at work, begged her to let me watch Cassidy at her house after school instead of mine so I could please clean something there,[…]”
I needed to do a lot of re-reading, a lot of going back to the same passage to understand exactly what was that about, because this author assumes her readers are of the intelligent sort. And I love it when somebody thinks of me like that.
This is the kind of book that I like: not a fast read because it is too thought provoking, multi-layered and simply beautifully written. And besides being beautifully written, the story flows seamlessly like a good movie, pulling the reader in that universe for a good amount of time, much longer than it takes to only read the book.
I could write more about the leitmotif of flying, falling, landing hard, the symbolism of the hard soil and the spring, the counting, or the the repetitive phrases of internal dialogue that torture Tess. But I’m gonna stop now, because I just finished reading the book and I am too overwhelmed and because I want to let you find the scattered beauty in this novel on your own. It’s a good book, if you don’t mind reading through a haze of half-shed tears. Just until the last fifty pages or so. Those you read shaking through an overflow. It’s a good book to read while we’re all waiting for a spring of our own.