Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Girl Becomes A Comma Like That by Lisa Glatt

“A girl becomes a comma like that, with wrong boy after wrong boy; she becomes a pause, something quick before the real thing. Even now, I am certain that the light coming from his parents’ room was a warning that the sincere lovers of the world existed elsewhere, not where I was, and that it would always be like that, the light on the other side not seeping in enough to illuminate his thin cheeks or the stubble I felt with a curious teenage palm.”

When I was trying to figure out what to write about this book I read the reviews in the front cover of my library copy, and one reviewer had it right on. “[Lisa Glatt] dares to infuse dark humor where tear-jerking sentimentality would be easier. Sex and death are big and bold in her custody, the female body an enigma of pleasure, fertility, and disease.”

This book is primarily about three women and their love lives, or rather the lack of love in their lives. There’s Ella, just married, still in school studying English, and working as a counselor at a family planning clinic. Her husband has just cheated on her with a co-worker of hers, and she’s struggling to forgive him. The main character, Rachel, is her poetry professor. Rachel is an unappreciated adjunct at the University, her mother is dying of breast cancer, and she’s using promiscuity to try to dumb down her pain. Georgia is young and bright with a mother that has just ran off on her father, a man struggling with a degenerative brain disease. What brings these three together is the family planning clinic Ella works at. Georgia is being treated for a sexually transmitted disease that will later lead to the cancer that will kill her and Rachel is over thirty, single, and having an abortion. One woman is struggling desperately to love just one man and the other two are struggling desperately to deal with the repercussions of replacing love with physical acts with man after man after man.

What interested me the most about the novel plot-wise wasn’t about the relationships the women had with the men in their lives, but what happened to Rachel’s mother while she battled Cancer. She lost her hair during chemotherapy and had wigs of every color and style imaginable so that she could be a different woman every day. She had a mastectomy and had to decide whether or not to have reconstructive surgery when she knew that her cancer could come back and her reconstructed chest might end up being a ticking time bomb that would have the power to kill her. She dealt with the effects of taking steroids as part of her treatment and worried over whether or not her changing body would turn off her lover or whether he even paid enough attention to her to notice. Through all of it, this courageous and dying woman is trying to help her daughter find the strength to say goodbye and is falling in love with someone else that’s dying of cancer. With her subplot, Glatt explores what makes a woman a woman and how losing or altering those symbols of femininity can change the way that we view ourselves.

A Girl Becomes A Comma Like That was well written and convincing. Glatt created honest and three dimensional women and put them in situations that aren’t at a safe enough distance from anyone’s lives.

No comments: