Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, October 15, 2007

The Almost Moon rises up to greet Alice Sebold's literary star

In the first chapter of Alice Sebold's new novel,The Almost Moon,Helen Knightly is visiting her aging agoraphobic mother who is quickly slipping into dementia. Becoming frustrated with trying to take care of her mother's physical needs,Helen impulsively kills her
on the front porch of the former family home.

How Helen attempts to deal with that act of murder and it's possible consequences,along with the emotional demons of her past,makes up the bulk of the story. She calls her ex-husband,Jake,to get some help but does herself no favors by moving her mother's body to the basement and indulging in a dark whim by cutting off the huge braid of hair on Mom's head to take home with her.

As Helen goes over the memories of her childhood,we watch as her mother's growing mental probelms overwhelm the entire family while Dad retreated into his own private despair as a coping mechanism. One of the most sadly moving sections of the book is when Helen,in her teen years,is made to go outside to deal with a angry group of community fathers outraged at her mother over her failure to help a seriously injured child who was dying in front of their house.

You might think that Helen is just playing the blame game here to justify her actions(which she is ,at one point) but over the course of the book,you see the real core of the probelm which is the notion of "Let's handle our family business in our own private way. We don't need any outsiders."

By allowing yourself to drink that slow poison of internalized personal pain,Sebold shows us how a person can easily surrender themselves over to others without so much of a sign of open struggle. Instead of dealing with her traumas,Helen let them fester over time and subtly corrode her adult life until the dam finally broke,spreading a river of lived out lava that threatens to destroy everything in it's path.

In many ways,this book is much darker than The Lovely Bones-Helen's fantasies about killing her mother and the levels she's willing to go to for attention and acceptance are fully on display here. You may not want to wade in these intensely deep waters but if you do,Sebold makes the journey worthwhile.

The Almost Moon is an all too real portrait of the dark despair that not dealing with your inner turmoils directly can produce,tranforming a person into a reflection of the very being they rail against in their heart. The dark poignancy of this novel reminded me of Marsha Norman's play," 'night,Mother" and should be considered an artistic counterbalance to that work:

On a more cheerful note,The Almost Moon Jingle Contest is still going strong and my thanks to those who have entered so far. There's plenty of time to send in your entry but a few reminders,folks-please send in your entries to livingreadgirl@yahoo.com and not post them in the comments section(that way,no one can copy off of you). Also,please let me know what your favorite TV commerical is(that info is interesting and does not make you a runner up automatically,I promise) when you send me your line. Thanks,and I look forward to more of your great lines.

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