Courtney's Book Club (kind of like Oprah's, but better)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I kind of failed at spending time with my Christmas tree yesterday (that sounds odd), and I didn't get a chance to finish wrapping presents.  I ended up having a lot of small errands/chores to finish before the weekend, so I didn't get any time to myself until after nine p.m.. And after a speed work regimen on the treadmill, I spent the remainder of the evening with my nose stuck in a book. I read for almost 3 hours and didn't fall asleep until one o'clock.  But you know, I don't regret it at all–I'll happy dwindle away any evening doing nothing but devouring a good book.

I've thrown out a few book recommendations in the past (The Help, She's Come Undone, Bossypants), so I'm gonna toss another good read your way.  I found Monica Holloway's Driving With Dead People through a random Amazon search and was intrigued by the book's (a memoir) synopsis. Later I found out a friend of mine was currently reading the book and she said it was dark, depressing and intense. Apparently I find those three characteristics to be wildly attractive in a book because I immediately reserved a copy at the library. And I can't put it down. I've read the book late into the night every day this week and have found myself misty-eyed on more than one occasion. The abuse and abandonment in Holloway's youth is heartbreaking, even heart-stopping at times. I've audibly gasped at some of the things that were said and done to her, at the acts of betrayal and hatred from her own family, and I've felt physically nauseous once or twice when some of her emotional turmoil hit a little too close to home.

Praise God that I have never experienced the trauma of being physically beaten, neglected or molested. I have loved ones who have been victims of such cruelty, and sometimes I wonder how they can be so brave and function normally when their childhood and innocence were shattered to pieces at the hands of someone they were supposed to be able to trust. Even during my tumultuous early teen years spent living with an angry step-father, I was fortunate enough to have a mother who loved my sister and I fiercely and a father, though distant and unavailable, who would never lay a finger on me. However, once I stumbled upon the following paragraph in Holloway's book, I nearly fell off of my bed in shocked recognition.

“I wished there had been obvious signs of destruction on all of us kids: bruises or burn marks, something that indicated how violent our house was, but words and neglect don't leave visible marks. And that confuses even the person who knows better. (169)”
If you like being traumatized by a book right around the holidays (like I obviously do), I highly recommend that you read Driving With Dead People.

From Publisher's Weekly via
Death lurks everywhere in Holloway's childhood. A neighbor boy accidentally shoots and kills a train conductor; a little girl is mowed down by a motorist. Her father's main hobby is filming grisly car wrecks and natural disasters, and her best friend's family runs the town mortuary. Observing the dead in their coffins, Monica wonders: would she be better off in a casket than alive in her parents' home? In this memoir, Holloway (an actress turned writer) tackles the horrifyingly familiar story of father/daughter incest: the secrecy that surrounds it and the ways it corrodes families from the inside out. Even though her memories of the abuse were repressed, evidence cropped up everywhere, from her chronic bed-wetting and compulsive lying as a girl to her adult attraction to abusive men; when her older sister, JoAnn, comes forward with her recollections, Holloway begins to remember her own trauma. As a writer, Holloway might not be in Mary Karr's league, but her blunt sentences deliver the unvarnished truth. In coming to terms with her tragedy, Holloway writes, "Knowing there is no cavalry is much better than hoping for a cavalry that never comes." Her memoir sings with the power of a disenfranchised woman finally finding her own voice, and her brutal memoir is hard to forget.
But I think I owe it to myself to read a more upbeat, happier book next so I don't have the blues on Christmas morning because I'm haunted by what a sad, miserable world we live in. So I got a second book from the library the same night I checked out Driving With Dead People.  It's called Columbine by Dave Cullen, a profile of teenage killers that goes to the heart of psychopathology.


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  1. My goodness, Courtney! That does sound like an intense book and I may just have to read it. I received a book, "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar children" from a friend at work for our secret Santa and I read it in record time. Only reading while making calls at work and reading until about 1 last night, I finished the book in less than 24 hours. It's a fantastical book about monsters (real and fake), war and death. Like you, I apparently like reading these during the holidays. The other book I'm in the middle of reading? Dean Koontz's Frankenstein. It's not a modernized version of Frankenstein but a version where the doctor found a way to keep himself alive for hundreds of years and is now on a murderous spree as he creates his own race of superhumans. Its grotesque at times but captivating. So, you are not alone. The exception is that my books are fantasy. :)


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