Wednesday, December 23, 2015
This Raging Light by Estelle Laure
Thoughts at a glance: *** (I liked it)
Summary: Things were normal before - Lucille's life consisted of normal things, like her best friend Eden, her little sister Wren, and Eden's brother Digby, who is beautiful and perfect and unfortunately already has a girlfriend.
But then Lucille and Wren's father has a nervous breakdown and is released from the mental health facility without leaving any way for his family to contact him. And then their mother leaves for a two-week vacation to get herself together... and then doesn't come back.
Now Lucille is scraping by to keep the two of them afloat, to keep the reality of their situation a secret from the world so that no one will tear them apart. On top of this, Digby suddenly starts showing an interest in Lucille, and it suddenly becomes a messy business trying to keep everyone at arm's distance, especially since Digby is the one person she wants to be close to.
Thoughts: I think that the most compelling aspect of this book is the story of Lucille and Wren, rather than the story of Lucille and Digby. I was hooked because I was worried about the two of them, barely holding on together, surviving abandonment, dealing with some very serious issues at the ages of 17 and 9, respectively. It is utterly, utterly heartbreaking what these two sisters go through - as a parent and a teacher, I really felt for them, and I wanted to keep reading so that I could see if they would be okay.
The story reveals events a bit out of order in terms of chronology - the opening chapter is called "Day 14" (presumably referring to the number of days they've spent totally alone, as this chapter occurs two weeks after their mother has left on her "vacation"), and then the narrative jumps back and forth. I was a little confused because eventually the chapters are labeled "Day 1," "Day 2," etc., but they seem to referring to a different (significant, spoilery) event that happens well after their mother has left, so I'm not sure why the author decided to reset the timeline without any demarcation that we were shifting to a different plot point as the focal point. I was enjoying the non-linear timeline until this happened. It didn't make me enjoy the rest of the story less, but I felt like the (significant, spoilery) event deserved more due, and maybe the chapters deserved something a little different.
Let's talk about the relationship for a bit. Make no mistake, Digby is cheating on his girlfriend, whom Lucille describes over and over as being nice, smart, great, etc... In short, this is not a case of Digby being stuck in a dead-end relationship he can't get out of. Laure's poetic language makes everything sound so romantic, and Digby is so tortured, because he just can't ignore his feelings for Lucille, and omg the drama! But come on... when all is said and done, he was initiating something with Lucille while still in a supposedly-happy relationship with his girlfriend. And that's not really so romantic. I know that feelings are complex and all, but it's a decision that they both make, knowing that it's a hurtful one.
Ultimately, I felt like this story needed more resolve. There are certain things that we never learn more about, that I would've liked to know more about. I know that real life doesn't always provide all the answers, but I'm not fully convinced that Lucille's character arc is complete when the story ends.