Nb: the quotes may be off a bit in punctuation etc. I went from memory.
Peach is a seemingly normal young woman. She's a "good girl" by her mother's estimation, a college student with a steady boyfriend who lives with her oddly sexual parents and her baby brother whom she adores. She's even a vegetarian. But the reader never meets that Peach. She meets Peach staggering home -- perseverating, incoherent, bloody, vomiting and in horrible pain.
This entire slim novel is present tense, stream-of-consciousness, and told to us by an extremely traumatized girl who sounds a lot like James Joyce (the author notes this herself at the end.) Joycean or no, it's a good portrayal of the way human brains deal with interpersonal trauma. Getting through the mundane "Get dressed, socks first...push swing door open, hear it swing shut -- swoosh", noticing the weather: "cold" -- detached from everything -- in complete survival mode, telling herself she will just "forget this" and move on.
I found her playing with sounds and repetitions of words interestingly poetic, though it's really just another way someone copes with an overloaded brain-body connection. It's much better than, say - muteness, for a book. and not unrealistic. The brain is a majestic thing that will do whatever it takes to get us through things nobody should have to live through.
"I want to say things but I don't know how to order the words. Sentences slither around my brain. Scattered words, scatterbrain, scattered semantics, scattered seeds..."
Peach denies herself any help - even medical, and we witness a young woman spiraling: instantly distant from her parents and boyfriend; uncomfortable with even the touch of her pet at times, then overwhelmed with love for these same beings she can't share her pain with. She lies to cover for her physical injuries; wishes she could tell her boyfriend Green, but can't get the words out; holds in bile, fakes having fun, tries to make her face look like it "should," goes through the motions of normal life while holding herself together literally and figuratively.
It seems like every woman I know has read this book, which automatically made me suspicious. (I still haven't forgiven my fellow females for The Bridges of Madison County.) I finally trundled forth on my own.
I'm glad I did. It just took me a while to get there. I wasn't sure what I was headed into. I figured "feminist, fat-positive, intersectionality" and that's all true. But are these essays? Not exactly. What was I reading? I finally settled on memoir-ish. It took me a while to finish this because I ended up with a ton of notes scribbled on my notebook, and I spent a lot of time reading about the surrounding circumstances. I honestly didn't have to. She explained these things well and even quotes huge chunks of some pieces. (One thing I learned: Leonard Nimoy is a photographer!)
The reason I'm going on about this is that the beginning of the book is witty. It's written like essays, even if it's about being a child, a fat child, a fantasist child... This doesn't feel like a true memoir until the very final few chapters, and those are beautiful chapters -- written with a vulnerability that I found very relatable and touching. There is true wisdom in the final handful of chapters that don't feel like I'm being Taught A Lesson because she shows us her experience and her vulnerability as she learns.
Earlier chapters are hilarious. The end of the book still has laugh aloud moments, but it's on a much deeper level. She's finally let the reader in. I wish she could've found a way to let me in earlier. Much of the fat-positive stuff felt very defensive. (Full disclosure: I, too, am overweight, and I can attest to the different way society at large treats fat people because I was pretty thin until I hit 40.) Despite my sympathetic ear, it still came off to me as defensive. The "lessons" she tries to impart early about the way we treat fat people finally get an "aha" moment in the latter chapters when she describes her marriage and the circumstances around her engagement. Here, she's open and honest. We get to see behind the activist into the real woman.
Interestingly, I found something at odds between her feminism and her fat positivity in these latter chapters. It's not glaring, and I certainly don't fault her for wanting to be desirable to her husband and show the world that he desires her, but the tension of being a woman shows up here. It brings up an even deeper set of issues for women that she doesn't touch. I don't fault her at all for that -- this is not an academic study.
It's hard being a woman. I know this. And I don't even have an army of trolls attacking me on a daily basis (see https://jezebel.com/if-comedy-has-no-lady-problem-why-am-i-getting-so-many-511214385 )
I'm slightly older than Lindy West. I grew up a decade or so before her. When I was growing up, it was assumed that because the world now said the "right" things, all was now fine, much like the "post-racial" nonsense that went around in 2008. It's bullshit, but I believed it as a girl, and that's brought me some real anger in adulthood. It's made me a pretty ardent feminist. This is where I've learned from women like Lindy West - how to be unapologetic about my feminism, including my anger.
This book didn't change my life, and I doubt it will change anyone else's. Nonetheless, West has a real point about chipping away at the old truisms and making the world a little better with our every interaction.
It's hard to be cold or cruel when you remember it's hard to be a person.
This is a pretty wise young woman, and it'll be great fun to watch her and read her in the future. Rumor has it that she has two more books in the works.
I won't lie. This was a hoot; so long as I treated it like pure fiction.
It's hard not to fall into the trap of almost enjoying the craziness of this story and its characters, until you remember these people are real and in charge of the largest nuclear arsenal, a powerful military, not to mention our country. Then it's just terrifying, despite the juicy bits. The whole Jarvanka v Bannon subplot is delicious. Jared Kushner comes off like a little boy, with a low IQ. Trump does too of course. Most of them do. Probably because this tale is clearly Steve Bannon's tale, and as such, we should take it with a big dose of salt and probably some Valtrex.
It's a fast and easy read showing a horrendous reality -- even only 1/10th of this is true.
Once I picked it up, it was like rubbernecking a traffic accident. It was hard to look away despite the horror. I finished it over a day or so, staying awake far into the night because after reading any of this, sleep is even more impossible than it was before. There's not a ton of new important information here. It's all fairly obvious (no reading, no curiosity, no ability to listen to anyone or think or stay tuned in to anyone but the TV and his own image, defensiveness, anger and bile...)
The revealing parts are that everyone around 45 thinks the same things we do.
I'm really torn on this one because if it was fiction, I think I'd feel it was pretty low-brow, absurd yet really funny. I would think it was satire. Since it's not fiction, the whole thing is making me nuts. I wouldn't say it's a "must read" beyond the part where the President of the US is trying to have the book banned. So let's just say I read this for the First Amendment -- yeah, that's the ticket!
I do hope that some of the players in this drama will get honest with the country sooner rather than later. I very much doubt that will happen though.
I've become a bit of an evangelist for this audio...book? It feels like a personal appearance. Incredibly easy to listen to about a topic that's hard to embrace: shame. There is a lot of research-based information on the differences between men and women here, but the bigger notes for me were the definitions she created for "shame," "love," "guilt" and other words we use constantly and rarely stop to define for ourselves or those we speak with.
I cannot repeat often enough: everyone should listen to this. Quick reasons:
Did I say how easy - even delightful - she is to listen to? I'm not a huge fan of audiobooks, but this is one I'd recommend to everyone I know or don't know.
Excellent, if seemingly ancient, book with loads of worksheets that are actually useful, information and plans for use in therapy that will actually be helpful... There are things written in this book that anyone in the trauma field should know or does know but somehow have escaped being written down, and I'm thrilled this book was still available when I learned about it. Sadly, the blurbs do it an injustice. It looks very formulaic, but it's meant not to be individualized for each person. I highly recommend this to anyone working with survivors and to survivors themselves. This book won't sit on your shelves holding a retelling of the same tale - it has easily copied worksheets and prompts that will suit a variety of survivors.