Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rachel Howard: the lost night

Lately, I'm skipping the alphabetical reading thing in favor of the "pick any unread book of my shelf that sounds interesting" reading thing. Sometimes it's a miss, sometimes it's a hit. Rachel Howard's "the lost night" was definitely a hit. Howard's dad is murdered in their house when she is about 10 years old, in rural Central California, and "the lost night" is the story of Howard's life of not-coping an coping with this beyond-traumatic event.

Your dad getting murdered is bad enough. Having already gone through 2 stepmoms and a stepdad, moving through bad parts of Merced and Fresno, knowing your step parents and maybe parents are abusing drugs, and feeling responsible for making your way in the world makes the murder of your dad, who happens to be the light in your life, even harder, Howard writes. As young Rachel's life falls apart, her defenses grow higher, and she is forced to play tough kid around her nasty stepdad. It's not till many icky relationships with men, a few serious breakdowns, and a move to a beach-town later that she's finally able to start the reconstructing of what went wrong a decade before, and how to make her life right in the present.

Part is what is satisfying about this book is Howard's ability to leave her search for the truth ambiguous. As she talks to her family members (and former family members) she uncovers more details and clarity about what happened on the night of her dad's death and the events leading up to and around that day that help fill in gaps and truths surrounding her cloudy and inaccurate memory. But she does not fool herself or the readers into thinking that she is going to "solve" any crime or find a killer. Her goal is to put herself back together, and help to find peace. The book is more real, and poignant because of this authentic ambiguity.


mandolinquent said...

Glad to see that someone else has found this book! Rachel used to volunteer at a shelter I worked at back in the day - she rocks!