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Monday, August 27, 2012

Turtle: The American Contrition of Franz Ferdinand by Mik Everett

Turtle is a memoir that reads like a novel. The reader might prefer it to be fiction, because no one could wish the unfathomably dysfunctional relationships and nastily random-seeming events on any real person. Unlike a lot of books I've been reading lately, I did not want to live in the world the author so vividly paints here.

As she mentions, "Squalor was the word that came to mind."

But this book does the main thing indie books alone seem to have the power to do: fly in the face of all expectations. I couldn't help but ask time and again how someone who had lived through this could come out of it with such a subtle literary touch. She manages time and again to make passages about squalor seem somehow lyrical and deeply meaningful. I also wonder how someone so young could write with so much perspective and wisdom.

So, while the subject matter could drag the reader down, by some wonderful alchemy, I felt uplifted at the end. This book actually draws the reader in to the degree that I wasn't quite ready for it end. In spite of my not having had comparable experiences, there was always some characteristic that gave the situation humanity and made me think I knew exactly what the author was talking about.

What does Franz Ferdinand have to do with anything? The poor guy didn't do much else for history than being killed. The author makes sophisticated, poetic, and startling statements about him that tie together the themes of powerlessness that run throughout the book. In the end, though, the author is not powerless because she uses her powers of perception and unique way with words to present the hand she was dealt in her own voice. In that way, she both owns her experiences and is freed from them. Unlike the supposed main character, the mother, the author can face reality without becoming emotionally dependent on any part of it. The things that happen to her don't define her. She does, if she cares to. She gets the last word.

Support this author if you're not too squeamish: paperback Kindle