Maybe it’s because I have really, really nice parents that sometimes I am so deeply intrigued by terrible parent stories. For the last five days or so, for example, I’ve been listening to the new Sufjan Stevens, Carrie & Lowell, on repeat non-stop. I bought it on iTunes and then burned it on to a CD so I could listen in the car. Right now it’s playing on my phone. The album is all about Sufjan’s super tragic relationship with his mentally ill mother and the songs have set over me like a fog, a perfect accompaniment to Our Endless Numbered Days, another story of poor parenting. But where Carrie & Lowell is somehow comforting in it’s final message–we’re all going to die so start forgiving now–Our Endless Numbered Days left me dazed and a bit traumatized. I needed the soothing voice of Sufjan to get me through the day after I finished it, when I kept coming back to the story in my head, in the middle of conversations and bike rides, and turning it over and over in my mind. What does it mean? Nothing so simple as “forgive,” even though that must figure in somewhere.
Ugh I am not selling this well so let me tell you that I was about half done with this book the other night at like 10:30 (I’d been so busy–I got it on Tuesday and had been reading pages at a time on my 30 minute lunch break) and started reading and I didn’t stop until I was done, sometime after 1.
A little more about the story: it starts in 1985, when a 17 year-old girl has returned to her mother nine years after being kidnapped and taken into the wilderness of Germany by her father. It’s narrated by the 1985 Peggy as well as the 1976 Peggy and all the Peggys in-between, as she grows up in the woods with her father, who tells her the rest of the world is gone and they are the only two humans left alive on Earth. In some ways it is a fairytale, or has the feeling of one, as told by the emotionally removed Peggy–the woods, die Hutte (the tiny cabin they live in), the terrifying river, eating squirrels, planting crops. But as the story unfolds it is also incredibly disturbing, mainly because the author, Claire Fuller, does such an amazing job placing us inside Peggy. We see as her, feel as her, experience her experiences in the way she does.
I can’t really say much more but oh man would I love to talk to you once you finish this book. If nothing else to form a support group! It’s so fucking good and so fucking sad and it will make you so fucking grateful for your parents and for whatever it is you’re eating for dinner. Read it now guys!!!