My latest read, All The Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood, has me all over the place. I finished it last night, but wanted to digest for a few hours before writing my review. Let me start by saying it is beautifully and incredibly well written, but it isn't a book for everyone. I am thankful I read several reviews before starting this book so I knew what I was getting myself into.
The world Greenwood paints - the messes, drama, pain and incredibly flawed characters - is heartbreaking, challenging and I believe, meant to be disturbing. There were many times I didn't feel good reading this book. It pushed me out of my comfort zones and set off all sorts of triggers. But I also discovered compassion and grace and understanding in the most unlikely of places and for the most unlikely of characters.
Speaking of...it is incredible character development. The book is told from multiple POVs - mostly Wavy and Kellan's, the two main characters, but you also get glimpses into the old man at Kellan's shop, Wavy's mother, all her father's side girls, her Aunt, her mother, her brother, her two cousins, her teacher, the judge in her court case, her college roommate...and they all moved the story forward in such an organic way that even though the narrator was continually changing, you were never confused or bored. That is incredible writing IMO!
Ultimately, I think it was the multiple POVs that allowed for me to be okay with the redeeming and resilient love of Wavy & Kellan's relationship in the end. Seeing their relationship grow through other's eyes over the years, helped me understand that Kellan was a little bit of a simpleton and truly had honest intentions when he first took an interest in Wavy - like making sure she was fed and educated! It wasn't romantic then.
Getting past their age differences and how young she was when their relationship started (even if it did start innocently enough) was still something that nagged at me the entire book, however. But the multiple POV's also made it evident that Wavy's life circumstances had forced her to grow up waaaay beyond her 13 years by that point in her life. I kept trying to put myself in Wavy's shoes - being raised by a crazy mother and absentee father on a drug compound - basically told your whole life your are dirty and unworthy to be touched, talked to, or heard...but expected to care for yourself and your infant brother. No wonder she found solace in, and was more than ready for, Kellan. And in that sense, her mother was more at fault than anything/one else...Like I said, unlikely compassion and understanding!
I give this book 4.5 Stars for being gritty and honest and moving and captivating from the very first page. It does more than pull on your heartstrings. It makes you rethink how and why and if you have a heart and what its strings really mean at all. It's is at once, Ugly and Wonderful and makes you feel that way too.