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A Puzzling Story but Don't Be So Quick To Judge
on May 5, 2008
Other reviewers are slamming this book because, I suspect, they don't understand the protagonist or her actions. While I don't claim to understand the protagonist's actions either, I can relate to her character. I know about living your entire life trying to be what others want you to be, in the mistaken belief and hope that if you could just be 'right enough' or 'good enough', it might stop your mentally ill (or alcoholic or abusive) mother (or father or other caregiver) from acting the way they do.
I couldn't reject the story outright, because so much of it had relevance for me. I know about doing the wrong things, about not being able to reach out to someone with a hug or encouraging words because that kind of behavior is alien. And even knowing how normal people are supposed to behave isn't always enough to teach an 'abnormal' person how to behave. Knowledge and experience are so different and experience always counts most.
There were times when, as I read the story, I wondered if Ms. Sebold had proposed this objective for the novel: to write about someone who makes all the wrong choices, regardless of her intent. Most readers are voting that such a person can't exist. But I agree that truth is stranger than fiction and such a person probably does exist somewhere. You might not want to ever meet her. But she's out there.