Author: Dorian

Reality Sent Reeling: ‘Woman in the Window’ by A.J. Finn

The last couple of years has seen an upswing in “missing woman” fiction, leaving me considering two things: why are we so excited about missing women and when would the embers of trend’s durability finally burn out? Then I picked up A.J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window. woman in the windowI said, “Self?” and myself said, “Hmm?” And I replied, “Sis, this book is good. It’s pretty good…. I mean, it’s REALLY GOOD.” And before you question my sanity, I let you in on a not-so-secret secret: I often have conversations with myself about something that speaks to me, or rather, enraptures me. Besides, once you begin reading this fast-paced psychological thriller, you’ll not only question the narrator’s sanity, you’ll be critiquing your on perspective about the world around you, the validity of your memories, and your own perception of the people we probably talk to the least: our neighbors. Oh, and if you’re a cinephile like me, this book will give you all the feels for Alfred Hitchcock’s most popular films.

Woman opens with Anna Fox, a former child psychologist confined to her New York City apartment because of agoraphobia, a type of anxiety disorder where a person fears places or situations that may be difficult to escape. But not only is she virtually imprisoned because of her condition, she is bound by the shame of not engaging with the outside world. She maintains relationships with her husband and daughter via telephone and feels guilty because she isn’t emotionally and physically available to them. Her only solace is watching film classics like Vertigo and Rear Window, spying on her neighbors with her Nikon, playing online chess, and counseling others in agoraphobia support chat rooms.

stewart camera

Not to mention mixing medication and guzzling endless glasses of Merlot. Then the Russells move in across the street, and Anna is immediately drawn to them: a perfect family that mirrors what used to be hers. But after a friendly visit from Mrs. Russell, Anna’s daily spy session from her bedroom window is turned upside down when she witnesses something ghastly in the Russells’ living room. Or did she?

Finn is a master at building the stifling world that has become Anna’s home and her very being. From playing out scenes throughout the day through tightly woven short chapters, to developing Anna’s internal monologue, Finn left me holding my breath and wondering what was going to happen next. Anna Fox is undoubtedly one of the most unreliable narrators of I’ve ever come across, spinning in a haze of what amounts to drug and alcohol abuse. With that being said, Anna is not just a caricature of emotionally instability; she is fraught with complexity and is a mirror of our own anxieties about who we are, how we see ourselves, and what we believe about others.

This page-turner kept me on edge and fed my love of both books and film. If you haven’t guessed it already, I highly recommend this ode to Hitchockian mystery.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have another conversation with myself. I’ll tell you about it later.

Addicted to Her Words: ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ by Celeste Ng

Hello, my name is Dorian. And I am addicted to literary fiction that delves into the complexity of the human experience.

little fires everywhereLittle Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng continues my binge on all things well-conceived and thoughtfully written. Whether on my couch, in my bedroom, or sitting at the park, reading this book reminded me of the power of perspective, understanding the intersectionality of being, and how we weigh our own experiences against someone else’s. I’d love to give you some lame pun about smoke and fire, but I’m not Katniss Everdeen and this isn’t Dante’s Inferno. It’s a story of two disparate families bound by two scandals in late 90s Shaker Heights, Ohio.

The novel opens with the Richardson family home destroyed by fire. Elena Richardson (mostly referred to in the book as Mrs. Richardson) considers how her “perfect” life has literally gone up in flames as she and her family watch firefighters extinguish the last of the little fires everywhere. Only someone is missing. Resident trouble maker Izzy, who is believed to have started the fire, can’t be found. Neither can the unwed artist Mia and her daughter Pearl, who have rented a small home from the Richardsons. The story continues to unfold with how the two shake up the comfortable life of a conventional family. When Mrs. Richardson interviews nomadic Mia for the rental, she is immediately beguiled by Mia and her daughter’s bond and simultaneously intrigued by people so unlike her. The Richardson teenagers, particularly Izzy, and Pearl practically swap families as these two units become engulfed in each other’s separate existences. Mrs. Richardson’s idyllic world is flipped on its head when a portrait of Mia is found in the local art museum and Mia isn’t too keen to share. Then, a young Chinese immigrant (and friend of Mia’s) fights to get her baby back from a white couple (Richardson family friends), which swallows the town in debate, and provides a grand opportunity for Mrs. Richardson to dig into Mia’s past. Whew! That’s a lot going on for a little hamlet in middle America.

The strength of Ng’s work is her ability to compose a kind of literary music out of the most ordinary things in ordinary life, from Mrs. Richardson’s first encounter with Mia and Pearl to the opening paragraph with Richardson home set ablaze. These aren’t just mere occurrences but intricately woven commentaries on the romanticization of motherhood and the false permanence of the American Dream. Ng presents all this with balanced weight of lyricism, wit, and a dash of melancholy, making for a recipe that is just right. While the differing perspectives were sometimes overcrowded, this gem is a compelling examination of mothers’ relationships with their children, their relationships with other mothers, and their vast cultural and class experiences.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go sit in a broom closet, think about my life, and contemplate my next fix.

Signed first editions of Little Fires Everywhere are still available in Lemuria’s online store.

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