She’s Come Undone

Obesity. Mental Illness. Rape. Death. AIDS. Bullying. More mental illness. Abortion. Divorce. Lots more death. You name it, this book’s got it.

Wally Lamb gained critical acclaim some years ago for this Oprah’s Book Club best-seller, especially because he, a man, wrote such a captivating story from the perspective of Dolores Price, a woman. The thing is, all the rave reviews say Lamb did an amazing job making all these depressing topics actually seem funny, but I didn’t laugh once.

Dolores Price was born in 1952 (throughout the book I couldn’t help thinking “That’s the year my mom was born”), and during her childhood years she witnesses a very unhappy and abusive marriage between her parents. Their separation and ultimate divorce is the first in a long series of more-than-unfortunate events for Dolores — including being raped by her twenty-something-year-old upstairs neighbor after moving in with her grandmother — that drive her to an unimaginable state of depression manifesting itself as extreme obesity.

I believe I have previously discussed how annoying Sophie Kinsella‘s characters are in that you just cannot believe a real person would ever be so mind-numbingly stupid? I felt the same way about Dolores, not because I was annoyed at her constant need to spend money and make excuses for it but because I was angry at her for not just DOING SOMETHING about her misery. Few things make me angrier than complainers who do nothing to fix the things they are complaining about, and it made me so angry that some horrible monster of a guy had the power over her to make her feel like SHE had done something wrong and that’s why she was raped and didn’t deserve anything happy or normal afterward. Then every time it seems like she’s going to change and do something about her disturbingly disgusting life, even after being treated in a mental facility, she goes back to her old ways. It’s very frustrating for the reader, especially a reader who prefers books with at least somewhat happy endings.

I don’t want to give away any more plot details than the above, but let’s just say nearly every single person Dolores loves eventually leaves, via death or other routes. It’s important to keep in mind that all her problems — big and small — stem from two things: 1) the tumultuous relationship with her parents, and 2) the rape. I do recommend reading it, but prepare to be disturbed.

After this and Room, I need a serious break from seriousness. Back to Madeline Wickham (a.k.a. Sophie Kinsella) I go with Sleeping Arrangements.

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