My stop today on the #RandomThingsTours blog tour for #AstralTravel by @ElizabethBaines
Stories. Within Stories. Within other stories.
This brilliant book is about the stories we tell ourselves, how we learn to handle the realities we cannot escape from, and exactly how much of our truest selves we are willing to expose or share in search of essential connection and resolution.
Jo, our narrator, takes us through her story, and we meet her as an adult writer in the process of capturing the dark and heart-breaking events of her childhood in a book. This story alternates between current time and Jo’s experiences with her own book. The process of writing her story is disturbing in and of itself – as we see in its effect on her family, as well as her own unresolved issues concerning events re-told from her tentative memory through her voice as a child.
The main conflicts center on her fractured relationship with her father, Patrick, a larger-than-life character who is a mass of contradictions, and a constant source of pain, terror and bewilderment to the growing sisters, Jo and Cathy.
It’s hard for the reader to understand this family, as we are exposed, through Jo’s eyes, to the relentless predictability of their grim lives and wonder at the impenetrable bonds that continue to hold the family together.
Gradually, as Jo probes deeper into her past, stirring up her own deeper memories, doing research on her families genealogy, and pressing her mother and sister for painful insights they have been unwilling to share previously, we come to learn more of the backstories, the stories within the stories, that Jo, growing up, although sensing something darker, had no conscious awareness of.
As we start to piece the new revelations together, it becomes clear that each member of this tragic family has suffered greatly – the difference really comes down to how each has managed to rise above, manage, or escape their lot and at whose expense.
I found each of their stories compelling and disturbing, drenched in the common denominators of shame, rejection, and “seedy despair” they are in some parts difficult to read.
As the stories layer in, relentlessly, stories within stories now we thought we knew in their entirety, with superb finesse it becomes clear that the author has slipped in a glimpse through to the “humanly vulnerable” core of pretty much every character we have come to know, question, or even abhor.
Leaving us to wonder – with less shame and more support, could these stories have been re-told yet again? For at least some of the family members it might not be too late.