Thursday, November 15, 2012

Reading Journal: Afflictions and Departures, by Madeline Sonik (2011)

It's a challenge to put into words why I enjoyed this book, but I did. I've always loved coming-of-age stories, and perhaps the most exciting angle in this one is that the story is true. Sonik's essays tell of a girlhood spent moving around the U.S. and Canada with a father with a drinking problem and a repressive emigrant mother from England. In each piece, we see the author and her attempt to overcome the challenge before her, finding ways to exist that don't stop at not rocking the boat but that result in growth. And though strangely mundane and packed with (perhaps too much) historical context, the collection sings because it's written tightly and hard to put down - the essays are so short you have little trouble knocking them off a few at a time. I found myself thinking of the book as a sort of evil twin to Bill Bryson's Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, where instead of a surreal escapes to comics or B-movies, it's the actual changes going on in medicine, communications, politics, etc. that take Sonik to her utopia: a comfortable, "normal" environment to inhabit. Interesting, unconventional and surprisingly readable. Highly recommend.

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